Mark Chambers is president and founder of the National Gay Basketball Association. As a 2017 Connect Sports Game Changer, Chambers discusses his passion for sports tourism.
What I do: I change lives by living my dream. The NGBA has allowed me to share my passion for basketball, while giving LGBTQ athletes a safe and welcoming place to be who they are and play the game they love.
How I got here: I began playing LGBT basketball in 1989. Unlike other LGBT sports groups, basketball was unorganized and not represented on the national level. In 2002, I decided to take the lead in organizing LGBTQ basketball to speak with one voice. I never expected NGBA to be at the level it is today nationally, but the NGBA mission is more important now than ever.
Why I am a game changer: I have instituted a stay-to-play policy not usually used with adult events with great results at the Coady Roundball Classic Championships in Philadelphia. The CRC tournament brought a positive energy to Philadelphia, and a new Philly team was formed that will now travel to the next event in Minneapolis. I believe everyone should have an opportunity to be who they are and play the game they love. When I was growing up, I thought I was the only gay basketball player in the world. The NGBA has allowed me to be visible to those feeling they, too, are the only gay basketball player around.
My greatest career accomplishment: I took 75 people to the Gay Games in Australia, and founding the NGBA.
Impressive stats: When I first founded NGBA, there were about 30 teams representing seven states. Today, there are more than 120 registered teams and 1,200 registered members, with 26 U.S. states and Toronto represented.
What I’m working on: In 2018, we’ll host a four-day NGBA tournament aboard a cruise ship on the high sea to Cozumel, Mexico. We are excited to start working on securing the host city for our 2018 national championship event and fall tournament, and creating the pilot program for three regional and three divisional tournaments in second and third tier cities.
What I do outside of work: I coach a middle-school boys basketball team; am a property owner and manager; and enjoy remodeling properties, working in my garden and life with my supportive husband and our daughter.