Since making history Sunday by becoming the first openly gay player in any of the four major American professional sports, Jason Collins has done his best to make the focus of the attention surrounding all about basketball.

But there was no denying the significance of Thursday’s game against the Nuggets for Collins, given the fact he was set to meet with the parents of Matthew Shepard afterward.

“It’s definitely going to be special meeting them after the game,” Collins said before the Nets’ 112-89 blowout win, adding the chance to meet Dennis and Judy Shepard was “one of those cool things in life.”
“I’m very much looking forward, first of all, getting through this game,” he said, “and then meeting them afterwards.”

Shepard was a gay University of Wyoming student who was murdered in October 1998, a moment that brought hate crimes into the public consciousness and eventually spurred the creation of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expanded existing hate-crime legislation to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.