How Isaac Humphries' celeb-filled trips to LA led to him dominating the NBL

Humphries ready to fill Bogut-sized hole for Boomers (2:10)

Isaac Humphries believes he's put doubts about his intensity on the court to rest and is ready to step into the Boomers' big man void left by Andrew Bogut. (2:10)

Isaac Humphries' offseasons in Los Angeles changed his life.

Every day would practically be the same for the Australian big-man. A 7am wakeup would turn into an all-morning workout with some of the world's leading NBA trainers, before he'd race home, shower, and aim to beat the "lunch traffic" to go and make music.

For Humphries, the conventional wisdom that a basketball player has to be solely and completely focused on his sport in order to reach his full potential just wasn't an option. He had tried it, and his young career somewhat stagnated because of it. Then, he went to Los Angeles and, just like that, around the middle of 2018 in the City of Angels, Humphries found his love for basketball by embracing his passion for music. "I met a friend there, Stevie Mackey, who hands down changed my life in so many ways," Humphries told ESPN.

"He opened my eyes to [the idea that] anything is possible; literally anything. I take what I learned from him in the music world, and obviously I need to translate that to my sport as well, into basketball. My confidence and my will to want to be great at everything, and look great doing it; it's okay to wanna look great, and wanna be great."

Mackey is a singer and vocal coach whose clients range from Jennifer Lopez, to Selena Gomez, and Lenny Kravitz, to name just a few. So, while Humphries was in Los Angeles to receive tutelage from the likes of Jordan Lawley and Anthony Susnjara - a pair of renowned NBA skills trainers who helped transform his game - he was also shadowing Mackey in some of music's most exclusive rooms.

"I'd be at the house with Wayne Brady, just having a lesson, whatever," Humphries said. "Anyone from American Idol just pops over. Selena Gomez just pops over. That world is so different but became so normal. We'd just go to Vegas for Jen's show and just be there all night with them...it's crazy, that sort of world."

Humphries told the story of a moment he had at the house of Benny Medina - Lopez's manager - that completely shifted his thinking.

"I didn't know him," Humphries recalled. "I was just invited to the house.

"I went there and I was in jeans; I came from a basketball game... I was in jeans and a t-shirt, and I walked in and Stevie pulled me aside and was like, 'my man... you can't show up to something like this in a t-shirt and jeans; what are you doing?'

"He gave me a massive talk, [telling me] everyone's gonna stare at you anyway; you're seven-foot. You walk into a room; people look at you. Give them other things to look at. You're a person that people are gonna look at. Dress well. These people will clothe you, do anything for you...Tom Ford's at this party; all these people are at this party. Look good, feel good, play good.

"And that really shifted my mentality [to]: confidence doesn't just come from what you're doing on the court; confidence comes from what you wear to the game, to everything. [It's] what shoes you're wearing sometimes. I just took that on board and fully just understood that concept, I think. And now, that's something I think about every day. It's something so small, but it really changes your mentality." To say that shift is working for Humphries would be an understatement. After his first offseason in Los Angeles, Humphries went on to have a brief stint in the NBA - even starting a game - and is now playing MVP-level basketball with the Adelaide 36ers in the NBL.


Humphries, still just 23, looks like a giant compared to the less mature version NBL fans saw during his rookie season with the Sydney Kings in 2017. The perception of the seven-footer among the Australian basketball community has also shifted, thanks to him becoming a visibly more passionate player, and emerging as one of the NBL's best defenders; he's leading the league in blocks over the 2021 season with 3.0 per game, to go with an efficient 15.5 points and 8.1 rebounds a contest.

As for the thinking that a basketball player can't or shouldn't embrace his other passions, because it would take away from his sport?

"It's not true at all," Humphries said.

"Being around J-Lo so much... [she's a] singer, actress, dancer, everything. She's literally everything. Being around her and seeing how hard she works, and how she just does anything she wants, resonated with me.

"I've always just done whatever I wanted, pretty much; let's be honest... It just showed that you can achieve everything at a high level. That [music] crew gave me the confidence to put on my own show.

"I played in the NBA, started a game against Giannis [Antetokounmpo], then had my own headline damn-near-sold-out show a month later in Kentucky, then signed with the Orlando Magic. Like, what? You can do it. It's just... some people don't think like that, and that's fine. If you don't get it, that's whatever, but I do, and I'm gonna conquer the world. That's my goal: conquering the world in all realms... that's what I'm gonna do and, every year, I'm building those blocks to take over."

Getting back to the NBA is the next goal for Humphries who, like many of his elite compatriots, signed in the NBL in a pandemic-disrupted year. The Sydney-native's season with the 36ers has been hit with a foot injury that's set to keep him out for a few more weeks, but he's playing at a level that's led many to believe he'll be back in the NBA sooner than later.

When that opportunity comes, Humphries is confident he'll be more prepared than ever.

"I've done it before at a low-level Isaac, if that makes sense," Humphries said. "And I know I can do it again at Isaac 2.0. Better, more confident. I know I can do that. I've been around that for two years; I know I can go back in there and contribute.

"It was literally a matter of me going somewhere and playing really hard, and just showing them... This year was always gonna be huge for me, to just prove a lot. I definitely think I can do that."