Editor’s Note: Isaac Humphries He is a professional basketball player for Melbourne United, part of the Australian National Basketball League (NBL). He previously played college basketball for the Kentucky Wildcats. The views expressed in this review are his own. Read more commentary on CNN.
One of the best feelings in the world is playing a professional basketball game while at the top.
You’ll be in front of about 10,000 people in one night. They cheer your name, they wear your shirt. And all the while a powerful pony threw him down and they exchanged turns to the crowd.
Well, it must be the best feeling in the world, right? And for a short time, I guess.
That was in 2020. I was 22 and playing with the Adelaide 36ers, two years before I signed with my current team, Melbourne United.
Now imagine what happens when all that adrenaline wears off after a game. For me, the moment I stepped off the stage, the excitement was gone. I go home to my apartment on Henley Beach, on the coast of Adelaide, and I’m 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 where I could be openly gay while playing basketball. until now.
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, meeting girls and being the best basketball player you can be. to become
So I got in line, no matter how confusing and surprising it was to me. I just wanted to fit in and not draw any attention to myself. There were no examples of a male basketball player doing anything other than that, so I resigned, thinking that my real life would begin after I retired.
My depression had gotten so bad that the thought of not retiring turned out to be a great opportunity.
In the year There was one night in late 2020 when my loneliness, self-loathing, and shame finally took their toll and I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to take my own life. Unfortunately, I have decided that it is the end. It was only when I woke up the next morning that I realized what I hadn’t done.
I started that season like nothing was wrong. But in the meantime I got some old leg injuries. I was shut down for the rest of the season and most of the sequel.
Simple things like getting up from a chair or climbing stairs – let alone explosive movements while playing – became nearly impossible.
As part of the adjustment, I moved to Los Angeles to continue my rehabilitation with my strength and conditioning coach, Nick Popovich. We first set up shop in Sydney to get through my recovery but he just got a new gig at the University of Southern California; He is the best in the business so the only way I could make progress in repairing my knee was to team up with 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 peers.
Living in LA for years gave me my first experiences of seeing members of the LGBTQ+ community in a positive light.
Growing up in Australia, where I went to an all-boys private school from the age of 13, there was an unspoken assumption that everyone was straight – and that was the end of the conversation. Throw that into the world of competitive sports, which I was a part of, and there were no ways to see members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Things didn’t change when I became a pro basketball player. LGBTQ+ Representation was rare in highly male-dominated sports, where it was generally seen as a negative point of difference. Anyone who has been in a locker room will understand the emotions floating around. There’s gay slurs and unintended profanity.
In LA, it was completely different. I was among the most successful people in the world – everything from musicians, television and film producers, media personalities, celebrities – and I realized that being openly gay can come with happiness.
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 that came with an inner and contagious joy.
So while I was in LA to fix my injury in 2021, I also got to experience being around the LGBTQ+ community. It’s mostly about having friends who are openly gay and being self-identified – shame doesn’t even count.
I learned a lot about past experiences in our community, and was shocked at the number of stories similar to mine.
I see that being open about who you are is the most liberating thing a person can do. Being gay no longer comes with shame; It came with freedom.
No one hid their identity. And it made for a very happy and very positive environment.
I hope it can be sports. I want it to be a place where anyone can strive to be awesome without fearing backlash for just being who you are.
You can be a gay man and a great 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 has been harder than it should have been but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Without those dark spots, I would not have been pushed into situations where I needed to explore, discover and learn to accept who I truly am.
If there are negative aspects that come with my decision to come out, I will take those barbs so others don’t; As long as we make progress on our way and especially children feel that they can be whatever they want.
I’m very lucky to be able to do that with this Melbourne United team. It says a lot about the club that I feel so comfortable doing this with them. For other sports teams out there, create environments that accommodate people of different genders, beliefs, races. Not only is it the right thing to do, but I promise that everyone in your organization will get the most out of it.
I encourage a little more mutuality across the board. There may be a comment here or there It seems funny now, and feeling like you might be considered gay may seem harmless in the grand scheme of things – but you never know who’s in the room with you and how it might affect that person.
I know what it feels like to grow up in an inhospitable environment, and I want to do my part to make sure basketball isn’t one of those.