Opinion: Why Australia’s Isaac Humphries is ready to tell the world he is gay

Editor’s note: Isaac Humphreys is a professional basketball player for Melbourne United, part of Australia’s National Basketball League (NBL). He previously played college basketball for the Kentucky Wildcats. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. Read more opinions on CNN.


One of the best feelings in the world is playing professional basketball while it’s at its peak.

Isaac Humphreys

You have to perform in front of about 10,000 people a night. They’re cheering your name, they’re wearing your jersey. And when you throw a powerful dunk and lean into the crowd.

Well, that must be the best feeling in the world, right? And for a brief moment, I think it was.

It was in 2020. I was 22 and playing with the Adelaide 36ers for two years before signing with my current team, Melbourne United.

Now imagine what happens when all that adrenaline wears off after a game. For me, the excitement was over when I pulled off the field. I would get home to my apartment in Henley Beach, a coastal suburb of Adelaide, and be completely alone.

I felt I had no choice but to be alone. That’s when my depression hits the hardest.

Throughout my career, there was no reality that existed where I could be an openly gay man while playing basketball. So far.

I’ve played everywhere – Kentucky, the NBA, Europe, the Australian national team – and it’s all the same: for the most part, being an athlete at this level is about making money, dating girls and being a great basketball player. Be what you can. to be

So I fell in line, no matter how awkward and awkward I felt doing it. I just wanted to fit in and not draw attention to myself. There are almost no examples of a male pro basketball player doing anything other than that, so I was resigned to the fact that my real life would begin after I retired.

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Melbourne United's Isaac Humphreys shoots during an NBL match against the Cairns Tigers in October.

My depression got so bad that the thought of not making it to retirement became a very real possibility.

There was a night toward the end of 2020 where my loneliness, self-loathing, and shame finally took their toll, and I decided it would hurt less to take my own life. I had unfortunately decided that this was the end. It was only when I woke up the next morning that I realized what I hadn’t done.

I started this season like nothing was wrong. But in the middle of it, some back leg injuries caught up with me. I was banned for the remainder of the season and most of the following as well.

Simple things like standing up from a chair or walking up a flight of stairs – let alone any explosive movement while playing – became nearly impossible.

Part of the fix was moving my strength and conditioning coach Nick Popovich to Los Angeles to continue my recovery. We originally set up shop in Sydney for our rehab but he just got a new gig at the University of Southern California. He is the best in the business so the only way for me to continue making progress on my knee was to join him.

LA has always been my favorite place in the world. On top of my basketball career, I’m also a musician, so I’ve been really fortunate to spend a lot of time there and develop a network of friends and colleagues.

Living in LA over the years also gave me my first experience of seeing members of the LGBTQ+ community in a positive light.

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Growing up in Australia, I went to an all-male private school from the age of about 13, where there was an unspoken expectation that everyone was straight – and that was the end of the conversation. Add to the competitive world of sports that I was a part of, and there was really no way for me to see members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Things didn’t change when I became a pro basketball player. LGBTQ+ High-level male-dominated sports were rarely represented, where it was generally seen as a negative point of view. Anyone who has ever been in a locker room understands the emotions that float around. Unintentionally derogatory slurs, and derision of anything with gay connotations.

In LA, it was completely different. I was around some of the most successful people in the world – everyone from musicians, television and film producers, media personalities, A-list celebrities – and got to see that being openly gay could come with happiness. Is.

For the first time in my life, I saw that people at the top of their game could be open and honest about who they were, and it came with an extraordinary and contagious joy.

So in order to heal my wounds in LA in 2021, I also had to experience more being around the LGBTQ+ community. This was mostly through making friends who were openly gay and self-evidently – not even ashamed.

I learned so much about the experiences that people in our community go through, and was amazed at the number of stories that were similar to mine.

I found that being open about who you are can be the most freeing thing a person can ever do. There is no shame in being gay anymore. It came with freedom.

No one was hiding who they were. And it made for the happiest, most positive environment I had ever realized.

I hope the games can be made. I want this to be a place where anyone can try to be amazing, without fear of backlash for who you are.

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Isaac Humphries in action during the match between Melbourne United and South East Melbourne Phoenix earlier this month.

You can be a gay man and an elite basketball player in one of the best leagues in the world. I am living proof of that.

My journey to get to this point in my life was harder than it should have been, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Without these dark points, I would not have been put in situations where I would have had to explore, explore and learn to accept who I really am.

If negative aspects come with my decision to come out, I’ll take those barbs so others don’t have to. As long as it means we progress along the way and especially the kids feel they can be whatever they want.

I am very fortunate to be able to do that with this Melbourne United team. It says a lot about the club that I actually feel very comfortable doing this with them. For other sports teams out there, create an environment that is welcoming to people of different sexualities, creeds, ethnicities. Not only is it the right thing to do, but I promise you’ll get the most out of everyone in your organization for it.

I would also encourage a little more empathy across the board. There might be a comment here or there. It seems ridiculous in the moment, and a sentiment that might be considered anti-gay may seem harmless in the grand scheme of things – but you never know who’s in the room with you and who might be right. What effect can this have on the person?

I know what it’s like to grow up in an environment that doesn’t feel welcoming, and I want to do my part to make sure basketball is no longer one of them.


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