Tom Chambers had one hell of an NBA career from 1981 to 1998. He averaged between 17 and 27 ppg in each of his first 10 years in the league. He averaged a consistent 6.4 to 8.4 rpg over the same stretch. He had some beautifully fluffy middle-part hockey hair (not the huge Euro kind, but a smaller NBA-approved compromise). His mid-range jumper was simply awesome for a power forward, and he shot 81% from the free throw line for his career.
That’s all well and good, but it wasn’t quite enough for most fans to remember him or for too many people to ever suggest he should be a Hall of Famer. But here’s the stuff that should get even the teenagers out there to perk up their ears and take note: he was one of the greatest in-game dunkers ever, and he took home the MVP trophy in possibly the best All-Star Game ever.
Younger fans who don’t remember the NBA in the 80’s take one look at Chambers and think “dunks so soft he apologizes.” He’s tall, white, has that hair - and then you watch the highlight tapes. For starters, here’s his most famous dunk, universally accepted as one of the 10 best dunks ever in an NBA game. The blow-by-blow account: Chambers steal, pass to KJ to start the 2-on-1 break, pass back to Chambers, take off from one step inside the free throw line, rise up quickly, stick a knee right in Mark Jackson’s trying-to-take-a-charge neck, rise even higher to the point he’s eye-level with the rim (seriously), throw down hard while Jackson wonders what happened, Chambers goes back on D with zero Shawn Kemp-esque self congratulation, dude in crowd wearing 80’s t-shirt with pink “OZ” on it slams both fists forward like he’s playing drums above his head.
The following is probably Chambers’ second-most famous dunk. This one is said to be on the entire Celtics squad, but in fairness it’s only on four of them.
And there’s this one just because it’s nasty.
Here’s the “Tom Chambers – White highflyer mix” someone put together on Youtube. You’ll notice he puts back misses right on top of centers, will go up-and-under to avoid multiple defenders, and is totally cool dunking behind his head while spinning around in the air.
You know how Bo Jackson was unstoppable in Nintendo’s Tecmo Super Bowl – literally unstoppable because he had max speed and they made it so he could shake off every tackler? Well Tom Chambers was such a prolific dunker, he was given the Bo Jackson treatment in Sega Genesis’ Lakers vs. Celtics game. Sega armed Chambers with a super-glide, double-pump dunk from the elbow that couldn’t be stopped in any way. Once you got him to the elbow and hit the right buttons: 2 points. Just want to add that considering LvC came out a year earlier than TSB, Jackson actually got the Chambers treatment. Here’s a video of someone using Chambers to outscore the Pistons by 50 in an 8-minute game. If you want to see dominance, check out how Chambers handles the double team at the 2:18 mark.
The other important information any part-time fan of the NBA needs to know about Chambers was that he put on quite a show in the 1987 All-Star Game. As far as talent goes, this exhibition game took place during the league’s peak era of superstars. You can’t find a better collection of top-end players than in the late-80’s/early-90’s: Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Isiah Thomas, Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, Moses Malone, Dominique Wilkins, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Kevin McHale, Clyde Drexler, an aging-but-still-contributing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, you get the idea. Some of those Hall of Famers couldn’t even make it into the ’87 contest, the league was so loaded back then.
Well Tom Chambers made it in as a late addition for the injured Ralph Sampson, starting for the West who were often overwhelmed by the East’s superior talent back then. It was usually up to Magic to figure out how to pull his conference together in order to make it a respectable evening, and he knew just what to do on February 8, 1987. On his way to a game-high 13 assists, Magic got Seattle’s Chambers the ball early and often, in part because the contest was in Seattle, but moreso because he wanted to win. Chambers scored a game-high 34 points, hit a game-high 13 shots, nailed a game-high 2 three-pointers (teams and players were still experimenting with them back then), and recorded a game-high 4 steals.
Chambers scored 10 points in the last 3 minutes of the fourth quarter to force overtime before his West squad pulled out the extra-period win 154-149. It arguably had the most talent of any ASG ever. It was arguably the most exciting ASG ever. It was the highest scoring ASG ever. And Tom Chambers was the best player in the game. Here’s the boxscore. Here’s the video: