PORTLAND -- When Jason Collins, the NBA's first openly gay player, takes on the Portland Trail Blazers Wednesday night at the Moda Center, he will be wearing No. 98 to honor slain Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard.
Collins, 35, signed a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday. He also revealed his number, 98, was a gay-rights tribute to Matthew Shepard. Shepard, who was an openly gay college student, was brutally beaten and murdered in Wyoming in 1998 in what was labeled a "gay hate crime".
Collins silently wore the number 98 while he played for the Washington Wizards and the Boston Celtics. Now that he's playing for the Nets, he'll don his old number for the first time Wednesday night against the Blazers.
"I picked that number obviously with regards to Matthew Shepard and also in 1998 the Sherpard project was founded," Collins told KGW Wednesday before the game. "I understand there will be other stories, and over time, there will be other players who will step forward. I'm looking forward to that day."
Collins' jersey was the biggest seller of the day Tuesday on NBAStore.com, two days after he signed with the Nets.
The Shepard family tells ESPN they are driving from Wyoming to Colorado Thursday to watch the Denver Nuggets play Collins and the Nets. They hope to meet him and thank him.