Melbourne United big-man Isaac Humphries has shared publicly that he is gay, becoming the only openly gay player in a top-tier men’s basketball league.

Humphries made the announcement on Wednesday (AEDT) via a video shared across his social media channels, which showed the moment he revealed the news to his teammates.

“We, as athletes, as professional athletes, have a responsibility to set examples for people,” Humphries said.

“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 is the starting centre for United in Australia’s NBL, and is averaging 12 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game. He’s coming off a 20-point performance against the South East Melbourne Phoenix, and currently leads the league in blocked shots.

The news was met with overwhelming support from the United organisation, Humphries’ teammates, and the NBL.

“Our whole organisation is just so proud of Isaac,” United’s CEO, Nick Truelson, said.

“Today is an incredible step in Isaac’s journey, and we as a club are wholeheartedly supportive of him. Not only as a member of our club, but as a person. This is a momentous occasion for him personally, but also for male sport on a global scale.”

“Our purpose at Melbourne United is to use the power of basketball to enrich the lives of our community, and this includes a strong focus on inclusion and diversity. We are thrilled that Isaac has identified our club as a safe space in which he can be his true self.”

The 24-year-old is only the second male basketball player to come out as gay while playing in a top-tier league; the first since NBA veteran Jason Collins, who did so in 2013.

In the video, Humphries spoke about the immense mental health battles that stemmed from hiding his sexuality.

“A few years ago, I fell into a very dark place, a very lonely place,” Humphries said to the room of United players, coaches, and executives.

“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 native of NSW played two seasons of college basketball at the University of Kentucky, and has spent time in the NBA, NBL, NBA G-League, and Europe over his professional career.

Openly LGBTQI+ athletes are still rare in male-dominated sports leagues. In 2021, Carl Nassib became the first openly gay player in the NFL; the same year, Luke Prokop also came out as gay, becoming the first NHL player to do so. In Australia, Humphries joins footballer Josh Cavallo as the only openly gay male athletes across the country’s major sporting leagues.

“We love Isaac here at the club,” United head 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 says Humphries’ announcement shows the NBL continues to be a place where players, coaches and staff feel safe and supported.

“As a League we celebrate people from all walks of life and embrace and foster diversity and inclusion,” Loeliger added.

“Basketball is a game that brings people together, and it is no more evident than today.

“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.”

Humphries is next in action for United (5-5) on Thursday evening against his former team, the Adelaide 36ers.

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NBL Melbourne United player Isaac Humphries reveals he is gay

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