The historic photos will show that Jason Collins became the first openly gay man in the four major men’s pro sports wearing No. 46, but he’ll return to the 98 he wears to honor Matthew Shepard on Wednesday night.
Collins’s No. 98 jersey quickly became the NBA’s top seller Tuesday, even though he wore 46 on Sunday night. That was because the Nets, who are in the midst of a West Coast swing, had only three jerseys available and Collins played within hours of signing a 10-year contract. On Wednesday night, against the Trail Blazers in Portland, he’ll be back in the 98 jersey he wears to honor and remember Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student who was murdered in a hate crime in 1998.
Shepard’s family was pleased to learn that Collins’ No. 46 isn’t permanent. ESPN New York’s Ian O’Connor reports that Matthew Shepard’s parents plan to attend the Nets’ game against the Nuggets on Thursday night in Denver, driving down from their home in Casper, Wyo. From O’Connor:
“I think Matt would’ve loved Jason,” Dennis Shepard said. “But I think he’d sit down and Jason would probably start running away from him because Matt wouldn’t stop talking to him.”
Shepard allowed himself a laugh over the memory of his precocious son, then he was back to discussing the beauty of watching Jason Collins fouling and screening the Lakers as often as he could.
“Matt would see this as a great day,” his father said.