Three decades ago, on March 24th, 1990, Phoenix Suns All-Star forward Tom Chambers played one of his most memorable NBA games and scored 60 points vs. his ex-team – Seattle SuperSonics.
Chambers, who showed a great deal of promise already as a rookie for 1981-82 San Diego Clippers, made a name for himself while starring for the mid-1980s NBAs ‘young guns’ – Seattle SuperSonics.
The performance which made Chambers instant NBA celebrity on a global scale was the 1987 NBA All-Star game in Seattle. Playing in front of the home crowd, being picked for a game as a replacement, Chambers paced the West squad to a great win with 34 points and thus collected Game MVP honors!
But, Chambers’ bond with Seattle will soon be broken.
At the time 1987 Western Conference finalist had three All-Star players who demanded the ball in order to deliver their share of 20+ points per night – Chambers, Dale Ellis, and Xavier McDaniel. With the addition of lefty power forward Derrick McKey prior to the 1988-89 season for some in Seattle, it seemed that Chambers era is nearing the end and that he could be a replaceable part of the Sonics’ ‘quotation’.
So, on July 5th, 1988 Chambers, an unrestricted free agent at the time, made a lifetime decision to sign with the Phoenix Suns, at that time the struggling and troublesome NBA franchise from Arizona, but which was in the process of putting together a nucleus of the eventual 1990s title contender.
In Phoenix, Chambers joined forces with the explosive point guard Kevin Johnson. Playing at an incredible pace, the two All-Stars soon became one of the NBA’s most prolific scoring tandems.
Already in his first season with the Suns, Chambers exploded for new career-highs 25.7ppg, 8.4rpg, 2.7apg on his way to being selected to 1988-89 All-NBA second team. That season Suns made the postseason, but it was the Lakers who swept them in the 1st Round of 1989 NBA playoffs.
Next season, Chambers played like a man possessed scoring at will against any given opponent. He topped 50+ points two times, 40+ points five times, and 30+ points eighteen times!
It seemed that he clinched his new career-high when he scored unbelievable 56 points on 19-29 shooting vs. the Golden State Warriors in Oakland on February 18th, 1990.
But, just 34 days later, this time in sunny Phoenix, he even topped this number with a masterful 60-point shooting exhibition vs. his ex-team Seattle Supersonics en route to a 121-95 Suns blow-out win.
And it’s not like the Sonics weren’t playing any D. Faced with a Chambers who was lighting them up at will, either shooting or getting to the rim, Sonics did whatever they could to prevent him from scoring!
That hot day in the desert of Arizona, they all tried to stop the smoking Tommy Gun – Derrick McKey, Xavier McDaniel, Michael Cage, even rookie Shawn Kemp.
“What I remember is like a guy having a video-game-like night!”Michael Cage
But, Chambers was just relentless and kept scoring regardless of the defender in front of him. In an unstoppable mode, he hit 22-32 shots from the field and 16-18 free-throw attempts on his way to a new career-high – 60 points!
“It was fun. Guys I used to practice with, guys who were ‘we don’t need him in Seattle anymore‘. And I just LIT THEM UP. It was so fun and so rewarding. And then – ‘Chambers forces it’! How do you force when you are 22-32?”Tom Chambers
1989-90 campaign was the most productive one in the entire Chambers’ NBA career. All-Star forward posted averages of 27.2ppg, 7.0rpg, 2.3apg, and was once again voted to the All-NBA Second Team.
The 1989-90 Suns also went a few steps ahead in their postseason efforts – after eliminating the Utah Jazz (3-2) and completely surprising the Western Conference Lakers (4-1), the end of the memorable run came in the Western Conference finals, which they eventually lost to the Portland Trail Blazers by 2-4!