DENVER (AP) — Jason Collins played the final eight minutes of a blowout win. Rarely has he been prouder of a performance.
"I got them a bucket," the Brooklyn Nets' center said with a chuckle. "And of course, I had what, like three, four, five fouls. So, I did my usual fouls and I got them a bucket. And a free throw."
After his eight-minute cameo in Brooklyn's 112-89 win over the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night, the first openly gay athlete in America's four major sports met with the parents of slain Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard.
Shepard was tortured and murdered in 1998 because he was gay. Collins wears his No. 98 jersey in Shepard's honor.
Collins, who signed a 10-day contract with the Nets on Sunday, said the chance to meet Dennis and Judy Shepard was "one of those cool treats in life."
He gave them a signed black and white jersey — although not a game-worn one.
"I did not want to give them a sweaty jersey, so this is a backup," he said with a laugh before going off to meet with Judy and Dennis Shepard, who drove up from Casper, for 10 minutes in a meeting room down the hall.
Laughter could be heard throughout the meeting.
"It was great. It was all great. He's very kind, smart, humble. It was delightful. We were happy to finally have the opportunity to meet," Judy Shepard said.
She said getting his jersey was "cool. It was very sweet, very genuine and very thoughtful."
Her husband said he hopes the day quickly comes where someone's sexuality is a non-issue.
"There should be no publicity over this. It should be just an ordinary every day thing, like the military now," he said. "That's what we're hoping for, soon. Thank you very much."
"His career is the most important thing," Judy Shepard added as they walked away. "That's it."
Collins said Shepard's death had a deep effect on him.
"I was in college at the time and when he was killed and of course it's a tragedy what happened and I just hope that it inspires others to move forward and again I'm looking forward to meeting his parents," Collins said about 90 minutes before tipoff. "I had the honor and pleasure of speaking with his mom last spring and she was a cool lady, a cool woman, and so I'm looking forward to meeting with both of them face to face,"