MILWAUKEE -- Jason Collins' private meeting with the parents and brother of the late Matthew Shepard on Thursday night, after the Brooklyn Nets defeated the Denver Nuggets, still reverberates with meaning.
“It was special,” Collins said at the shootaround before the Nets (27-29) conclude their season-high, seven-game road trip against the Milwaukee Bucks (11-46) on Saturday night. “It was a great meeting. They’re a wonderful family. Very fortunate to have met with them.”
Asked if the moment was packed with emotion, Collins hesitated slightly before replying.
“I’ll say it was a great experience. Again, very fortunate, very glad that they drove down from Wyoming and glad to have met with them.”
Collins gave Dennis and Judy Shepard an autographed No. 98 black-and-white jersey in a private room at the Pepsi Center.
Friday night, the NBA announced that it was donating the proceeds from the sales of Collin’s No. 98 jersey to the Matthew Shepard Foundation and the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network.
Collins said that he was very aware of the NBA’s effort.
“Two organizations, tremendous organizations,” Collins said. “They do a lot of good working the community.”
Collins, who became the first active openly gay player in NBA history Sunday after signing a 10-day contract with the Nets, wears No. 98 in honor of Shepard, who was beaten, tortured and murdered in a 1998 anti-gay hate crime in Wyoming.
Collins said that thinking about all that has happened since Sunday is tough to put into words right at the moment.
“Obviously, things happened very quickly, and right now I’m focusing on the Milwaukee Bucks,” he said. “I’m not really thinking about the events over the past week. The events over the past week have been very special, but right now the focus is on the Milwaukee Bucks.”
The Bucks have the worst record in the NBA and face the Nets, who already have beaten them twice in December this season. A victory would give the Nets a series sweep.
The Nets return home following the game to host the Chicago Bulls.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Collins said. “I’ve obviously played in the arena before. It’ll obviously be nice playing in front of the home crowd, but, again, the focus is on the Milwaukee Bucks.”
Asked if there have been any discussion regarding another 10-day contract or something more definitive, Collins said that he didn’t know and left that up to his agent.
“I don’t know when that it’ll be,” he said. “I have no idea, honestly. I just take it day by day.”