Australian professional basketballer Isaac Humphries has revealed he is homosexual, making him the only openly gay man playing in a top-tier basketball competition.
The 24-year-old, who formerly played for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and is now contracted to Melbourne United in Australia’s National Basketball League (NBL), said he was coming out publicly in an effort to make sport “a place where anyone can strive to be amazing, without fearing backlash just for who you are”.
Writing in an opinion piece for American broadcaster CNN, Humphries said his journey to “liberation” was born from a battle with the depths of depression.
“Over my entire career, there was no reality that existed where I could be an openly gay man while playing basketball,” he said.
“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 that level is about making money, dating girls and being the best basketball player you can be.
“So I fell in line, no matter how awkward and weird I felt doing it. I just wanted to fit in and not draw any attention to myself. There were almost no examples of a male pro basketball player doing anything other than that, so I was resigned to the fact that my true life would start after I retired.”
Humphries said his mental state was so bad, that in 2020 he decided that “it would hurt less to take my own life”.
“It was only when I woke up the next morning when I realised what I hadn’t done.”
Midway through the following season, Humphries travelled to Los Angeles to seek treatment for some nagging leg injuries.
It was during this trip that Humphries said his eyes were opened.
“In LA… 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 can come with joy,” he said.
“LGBTQ+ representation had rarely ever been there in top-tier male-dominated sports, where it’s generally seen as a negative point of difference.
“For the first time in my life, I saw that people at the top of their game can be open and honest about who they are, and that came with a visceral and contagious happiness.”
Humphries said being around the LGBTQ+ community taught him that “being open about who you are can be the most freeing thing a person can ever do”.
He added: “No one was hiding who they were. And it made for the happiest, most positive environment I didn’t realise existed. That’s what I hope sports can become.
“You can be a gay man and an elite basketball player in one of the best leagues in the world. I’m living proof of that.
“I know what it feels 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.”