Suns Honor Chambers Role in Club
PHOENIX (AP) _ Tom Chambers, who came to the Phoenix Suns in 1988 as the NBA’s first unrestricted free agent, was honored today as the player who became the foundation of the franchise.
``He is the cornerstone of the building we’re in right now,″ former Suns coach Cotton Fitzsimmons said during a halftime ceremony at America West Arena. ``Without him, we couldn’t have been successful.″
Chambers’ five children were part of the ceremony during the game between Seattle and Phoenix. So were Suns owner Jerry Colangelo and Kevin Johnson, the point guard who dished so many of his assists to Chambers.
``We’ve been together a long time,″ Johnson said after the ceremony. ``Fortunately for us, Tom and I have been able to express how we feel toward one another over the years. A moment like this just gave everybody else a chance to hear it.″
Chambers played five seasons for the Suns during his 16-year NBA career, averaging 20.6 points and six rebounds per game. In his first two seasons with the Suns, he averaged 27.2 points and 25.7 points, still the highest two averages in the team’s history.
``We had so much fun here,″ said Chambers, who serves as a special assistant coach and community relations representative for the Suns.
Chambers had 20,049 points in his NBA career, 24th on the all-time list. He was in the All-Star Game three times as a Sun. In 1987, the year before he came to Phoenix, he scored 34 points and was the game’s MVP.
He rattled off the names of some of his Phoenix teammates, including Eddie Johnson, Jeff Hornacek and Dan Majerle. He had special praise for Johnson, who likely will someday have his name up with Chambers and the other in the new ``Ring of Honor″ at America West.
Chambers called Johnson ``the guy who made me the player I am. I couldn’t have done it without K.J.″
Colangelo presented Chambers with a custom-made saddle, told him he was getting a new trail horse to go with it, along with a new pickup truck and a statue commemorating Chambers’ memorable slam dunk over Mark Jackson.
Chambers came to Phoenix at a crucial time for what was then a shaky franchise.
``In order for us to go from 28 wins one year to 55 the following season, you’d better have a very good ball player, and we had one in Tom Chambers,″ Fitzsimmons said.
Four of the other five players in the Suns’ ``Ring of Honor″ were on hand for the event _ Alvan Adams, Walter Davis, Dick Van Arsdale and Paul Westphal, who was there as Seattle’s coach. The only one missing was Connie Hawkins, who is in Bosnia on a goodwill trip.
Westphal said Chambers thrived in Phoenix because the Suns encouraged him to take as many shots as he wanted.
``Some people called him selfish, saying he wanted to shoot all the time,″ said Westphal, who was a teammate of Chambers and later an assistant coach. ``But when that’s what you do best, you should shoot all the time.
``We were happy when he shot, and he was happy when he shot.″
Chambers had a special thanks for the fans who cheered him on, first at the old Veterans Memorial Coliseum and then at America West Arena.
``You are the greatest,″ Chambers told them. ``From day one you embraced me. You loved me. You loved the team. You bought the tickets to build this arena.″
Chambers’ No. 24 wasn’t officially retired because it’s worn by the Suns’ Tom Gugliotta.