Okafor was one of the select people Jason Collins gave advance notice that he was telling the world he was gay in a first-person article posted on Sports Illustrated's website. Collins' announcement made him the first active player in one of the U.S.'s four major pro sports leagues to come out. Okafor said Collins was "calm, collected and cool" during their conversation.
"I'm happy for him and I congratulated him," Okafor told Yahoo! Sports on Monday. "While it's a great thing, it's tough not knowing how it will be perceived. Whenever you're the first there is always that uncertainty.
"He called me right before the article came out and told me. But before that I didn't know. … I told him that I thought it was a very brave thing that he's doing."
Collins has played for six teams in 12 seasons and joined Washington in a Feb. 21 trade with the Boston Celtics. Okafor doesn't think there would be an issue with any of the Wizards if Collins re-signed for next season.
"We all get along so great," Okafor said. "Jason was part of the group. I thought the only difference is him coming out saying he's gay. He's still the same person. He still has the same rapport with us. Everything is going to be the same."
Collins might have a hard time finding a team, not because of his sexual orientation but because of his declining game. The 34-year-old had 41 points and 60 rebounds while playing in 38 games with Boston and Washington this past season. He fared well in his bruiser role that earned 713 games of NBA experience. Okafor described Collins as a leader who comes to play every day and still has "plenty of value."
Okafor expects Collins to continue his NBA career.
"For a gay athlete to come out and announce that he's gay is a huge deal," Okafor said. "The majority of us don't have that pressure or are harboring a secret that others might look down upon. We don't have to put on an act and pretend like we are the same as the next person when we're different. You may be punished because of that difference. The effort of him coming out and being the first one, I think it is [noteworthy]. Should it be a big deal? That's a bigger question that goes into the times we are in.
"We would like to say no, but that's just the way things are right now. With Jason's help, I think he's going to make it so later on it won't be a big deal and when the next person comes out we don't really care. People will say, ‘I'm gay,' and we'll say, ‘OK. So what. Put on a jersey, let's go.' That's a point that he's trying to get it to."
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