It’s perhaps inevitable that the celebration of the first openly “gay” NBA player would intersect with the tragic story of a Wyoming college student whose brutal murder made him an iconic figure in the homosexual-rights movement and a galvanizing force for legislation, including a federal bill that bears his name.

The Associated Press reported the Brooklyn Nets’ Jason Collins, who signed a 10-day contract with the team Sunday, met after his game in Denver Thursday night with the parents of Matthew Shepard.

The AP, in its recounting of the horrific 1998 assault, stated matter-of-factly that Shepard “was tortured and murdered in 1998 because he was gay.”

However, a book by an accomplished, openly gay journalist published last fall presented documentary evidence that the murder of Matthew Shepard had nothing to do with hatred of homosexuals.

It was so convincing that the Advocate, which calls itself the “world’s leading source for LGBT news and entertainment,” published a positive review of the book titled “Have We Got Matthew Shepard All Wrong?”

In “The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard,” author Steve Jimenez contends Shepard not only knew his murderers, he engaged in homosexual acts with them. They also bought drugs from each other and partied together.

Jimenez speculates Shepard’s killers, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, wanted a stash of methamphetamine they believed Shepard possessed. McKinney, according to Jimenez, was on a prolonged meth binge that made him prone to extreme violence.

Ten years ago, the ABC News program “20/20” interviewed the convicted killers, who, like Shepard, were both 21 at the time of the murder.

As summarized, they told ABC’s Elizabeth Vargas “that money and drugs motivated their actions that night, not hatred of gays.”

‘The truth matters’

Jimenez said he went to Laramie, Wyo., the site of the murder, to conduct research for a movie script and came away with an unexpected story.

He told radio host Steve Malzberg shortly after his book was published that he didn’t write it “to satisfy the right or the left.”

“I didn’t write the book from a political point of view. I wrote it because I believe that the truth matters,” he said.

Asked why establishment media has continued to embrace the Shepard story as a hate crime despite evidence to the contrary, Jimenez said there’s “a confluence of interests here – that once the story was told they wanted to stick with it.”

The play "The Laramie Project" has been called "a powerful and moving chronicle of how Matthew’s murder became a watershed moment in America."

President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard Act into law in 2009. It expands the 1969 federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

The Shepards founded the Matthew Shepard Foundation in 1998 to promote “diversity and tolerance.” At least two plays, three narrative films and a documentary have been made about Shepard. Songs have been recorded about him by popular singers, including Melissa Etheridge, Elton John and Lady Gaga.

No. 98

Dennis and Judy Shepard met with Collins Thursday night for about 10 minutes after the game.

Collins gave them a signed jersey with his No. 98, which he chose to honor Shepard, marking the year of his murder.

Judy Shepard, according to the Associated Press, said the meeting was “all great.”

“He’s very kind, smart, humble. It was delightful. We were happy to finally have the opportunity to meet,” she said.

Before the game, Collins said Shepard’s death had a deep effect on him, the AP reported.

“I was in college at the time, and … of course it’s a tragedy what happened, and I just hope that it inspires others to move forward,” he said.

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