Tom Chambers spent only one year at Fairview High School, and only two years overall in Colorado. But they were critical years in the development of an incredible basketball career.
Last week, Chambers was honored as part of the Pac-12 Conference’s annual Hall of Honor inductees, a group that also included former Colorado track and cross country star Jenny Simpson. Chambers, who scored more than 20,000 points in a 16-year NBA career, graduated from Fairview in 1977.
He grew up in Utah, and spent his junior year of high school at Aurora Central after his family moved there when his father found a new job. Another job change brought the family to Boulder the next year before Chambers starred at Utah.
“It really worked out well for my basketball,” Chambers said of the Colorado detour in his playing career. “Going to Aurora — Del Mar Park — I was playing out in the streets every day. It really helped develop my skills. It was the first time I really played basketball every day. I was always a baseball, football and basketball guy in Utah. I grew a bunch that year. I went from 6-(foot-)2 to 6-6, and that’s when I first started getting recognized. I won the Mile High one on one tournament. That’s when we figured out I might get a scholarship.”
Although Chambers was in Boulder only a year, he says he didn’t rule out Colorado during the recruiting process. At the time, the program was undergoing the coaching transition from Sox Walseth to Bill Blair. The Buffs were decent during the four seasons of Chambers’ collegiate career — CU went 56-43 between 1977-78 and 1980-81 — but with Utah he played in two NCAA Tournaments, reaching the Sweet 16 in 1981.
And, Chambers admitted, not only was Utah home, but the “Runnin’” portion of the Utes’ nickname was far too appealing.
“(CU) was in it. And the reason I didn’t want to go CU at the time was they scored 55 points a game,” Chambers said. “I liked the Runnin’ Utes much better. We were pushing 100 points all the time. I just liked the uptempo game. I didn’t like the slow-down. I liked to get out and run. In the WAC in those days we had some really good teams.”
Chambers was the eighth overall pick in the 1981 draft, spending his first three seasons with the then-San Diego Clippers. He emerged as an offensive force at Seattle and then Phoenix, averaging at least 19.9 points in six of seven seasons beginning in 1984-85, including a career-high 27.2 points with Phoenix in 1989-90.
Chambers played in the 1993 NBA finals with Phoenix, when the Suns lost in six games against a Chicago Bulls team that clinched the first of its two 1990s three-peats. He played in four All-Star games, and his MVP honor at the 1987 All-Star game remains a career highlight.
“I had a great career for a long time,” Chambers said. “I scored a bunch of points. Had some great teammates. Went to the finals in ’93. That was a pinnacle. And then my moment in Seattle, when I was a replacement All-Star and was MVP of the game. When Dr. J and Magic and Larry and those guys are in the game, and Kareem, and I’m the MVP, that was a pretty fun day for me.”