Everyone in gay basketball knows of Mark Chambers.
The legendary player and organizer has been on the LGBT basketball scene since 1990, when he co-founded Lambda Basketball in Los Angeles with Martin Rodriguez and Thorn Edwards
Since then he’s presided over and organized over 50 basketball tournaments and founded the National Gay Basketball Association in 2002.
Now Chambers is calling it a career.
“The National Gay Basketball Association takes great honor in announcing that NGBA founder Mark Chambers is stepping down from the organization’s president position to focus on the next chapter of his life,” a league statement read. “He has dedicated his life to the betterment of the LGBTQ+ basketball community, and we thank him for his dedication, vision, and tireless service.”
Chambers has lead his organizations with a couple of key principles in sports. Yes, competition has long been important to Chambers. As it should be. Chambers was a competitor throughout his years, winning medals and losing heartbreakers like the rest of us. Lambda Basketball and the NGBA have fostered strong competition, as often witnessed at the Gay Games and Coady Roundball Classic.
He was also focused on community. And community was the most important part of his focus. Coming out in the 1980s — at the height of the AIDS epidemic and at a time when gay athletes “didn’t exist” — the dedication of Chambers and others to building a gay sports community was important.
Chambers’ identity as a gay Black man — who is also a husband and a father — was never lost on him. He had his foot in two marginalized communities, and in more ways than many people will ever know.
“The best part of my time as a leader has been watching marginalized players find a community they connect with,” Chambers told Outsports. “I’ve seen lives change because they found NGBA.”
Personally speaking, I was one of those people who found Lambda Basketball shortly after coming out. Players with the L.A. gay flag football league told me about the basketball group, and often joined for pickup games. It was a fun and competitive group. Even though I was never very good at basketball — football fit me much better — I made many friendships, including with Chambers, that enriched my life.
It’s how sports became an essential part of my identity as a gay man. After so many years growing up hearing that gay men aren’t in sports, Chambers’ Lambda Basketball was essential in showing me that wasn’t remotely true.
“Growing up believing I was the only gay basketball player, it was mind-blowing to finally know that I was not alone,” Chambers said. “I found a brotherhood (familyhood) on that team. That led to co-founding Lambda basketball. And, after a couple years I wanted all LGBTQ basketball players to be able to be a part of the familyhood, and so I started working on creating and developing the as-yet-unknown volunteer organization, NGBA.”
For Chambers, it has been about the people who introduced him to the sport, supported him over the years and helped make his time
“Thanks to my husband of 36 years, Stephan Sauer, whose simple act of telling me about the Gay Games team forming gave me the platform to change the world,” he said. “I am forever thankful to those who supported me and those who challenged me. You energized me for 30+ years to make space available for the LGBTQ+ community to be who they are and play the game they love.”
Chambers will remain on the NGBA executive board, as the former president.
From all of us at Outsports, we send Chambers countless thanks and wishes of joy and success ahead.