Melbourne United star Isaac Humphries has revealed he is gay, becoming the only openly gay player in a top-tier men’s basketball league.
Humphries made the announcement in a video shared to his social media accounts, in which he shares the news to his NBL teammates.
“We, as athletes, as professional athletes, have a responsibility to set examples for people,” Humphries said.
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“The truth is there are so many people in other worlds that are struggling every single day and don’t know how to get up, (and) don’t know how to exist. I know how that feels, and I want to represent those people.
“That’s my goal behind this: make sure people know you can be whatever you want, no matter who you are or what you do. You can be ‘Big Ice’ and be gay, and you can still be a great basketball player and be gay. You can do whatever you want.
“It has nothing to do with your sexuality, or who you are, or who you’re meant to be, or who you’re expected to be. I just want to be myself. I discovered this is my purpose in life, and I’m gonna give it my best go.”
Humphries also opened up on the mental health battles he experienced while hiding his sexuality.
“A few years ago, I fell into a very dark place, a very lonely place,” he said.
“I couldn’t be who I am, and I attempted to take my life. The main reason behind me becoming so low and being in that point is because I was very much struggling with my sexuality and coming to terms with the fact that I’m gay.
“I hated it about myself. I was disgusted at myself. I thought that I could not be that person within our environment, within a basketball environment. It wasn’t until I was in a community that’s full of pride and happiness and joy; it was a big wake up call for me.
“But then came the big question mark of how do I be a basketball player, and how do I join a new team when I’ve finally come to terms with this about myself and I don’t wanna hide who I am anymore. I decided that, if I’m gonna join a team, that I’m gonna come out publicly, and just make sure people know that you can live. And you don’t have to hide, just because you’re an athlete.”
The 24-year-old grew up in Sydney and played two seasons of college basketball at the University of Kentucky, and has spent time playing in the NBA, NBL, Europe and the G-League throughout his career so far.
Humphries is just the second male basketball player to come out as gay while playing in a top-tier league after NBA veteran Jason Collins came out in 2013.
Adelaide United footballer Josh Cavallo became the only openly gay player in the A-League competition when he came out last year.
Humphries’ announcement was met with overwhelming support from Melbourne United and the NBL.
“We love Isaac here at the club,” United coach Dean Vickerman said.
“For him to feel comfortable to be his true self here is great, and we couldn’t be more proud of him.”
“We can’t underestimate how difficult this must have been for Isaac, but I’m really excited by the fact that he can be completely open and honest with his teammates and now ultimately, the world. It’s huge.”
“Isaac has also made it clear to me and the rest of the team that while this is a massive occasion for him off the court, his focus remains on the court. We will continue to support Isaac however we can, while also pursuing another NBL championship with this group.”
NBL Commissioner, Jeremy Loeliger said in a statement: “Isaac has always been a role model and leader. He is someone we’ve always held in the highest regard.
“Isaac has conducted himself admirably today and over the course of his career, in dealing with what has clearly been a significant cause of distress and consternation for him personally.”
“As a League we celebrate people from all walks of life and embrace and foster diversity and inclusion.
“Basketball is a game that brings people together, and it is no more evident than today.”
Humphries has been widely praised by the basketball community in Australia and America.
The NBA’s official Twitter account posted: “We are proud and grateful to Isaac for sharing his story We know the real impact his honesty and courage will have on many others. Isaac has our unwavering respect and support.”
NBL commentator Liam Santamaria tweeted: “Such incredible strength and courage. You are setting a wonderful example, Isaac, for so many people.
“Your message that “you can be whatever you want, no matter who you are or what you do” is tremendously powerful. Much love and respect.”
Media mogul and Perth Wildcats owner Craig Hutchison said: “Incredibly courageous, powerful and inspiring. Thanks @IsaacHumphries7 for sharing your journey. Whole
@NBL world stands with you.”
NBA host Malika Andrews said: “Incredibly brave. Thank you for sharing your truth, Isaac. You will help so many.”
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Humphries showed “tremendous courage and purpose”.
Humphries has been one of United’s best players this season, averaging 12 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game.
The 211cm centre scored 20 points in his last outing against the South East Melbourne Phoenix and is leading the NBL in blocked shots.
Humphries will take to the court on Thursday night when Melbourne United faces the Adelaide 36ers.