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38-year-old forward returns for one last shot at the NBA
Q&A with TC

WHEN TOM CHAMBERS signed with the Suns on June 5, 1988, as the first unrestricted free agent in NBA history, he played a key role in the turning point of the franchise. Led by his 25.7 points and 8.4 rebounds a game, the Suns won 55 games in 1988-89 - after losing 54 the year before - and advanced to the Western Conference Finals. TC would spend five seasons in
Tom Chambers Tom Chambers
Phoenix in all before being released after the 1992-93 campaign. Five seasons, several teams and a brief retirement later, the now 38-year-old forward has returned to Phoenix this summer for one more shot at the NBA. He took time out during a break in the Suns' training camp at the America West Arena to talk about his career and his new outlook on life. Shouldn't you be relaxing and enjoying retirement right about now?

Tom Chambers: I tried that and it wasn't what I wanted to be doing. I went through the motions over the past three or four years and hung on with a couple of teams but that wasn't what it was about. I wanted to come back down here, get myself in great shape - I'm in better shape now than I've ever been coming to a training camp - and have one more enjoyable time and give back to the community and give back to the organization. I've been a taker for a long time and I've had a real change in my personal life and I want to give some things back because this place has been so good to me. What have you been doing to get in shape?

TC: I've been running a lot. I started eating better and I cut out all the caffeine, carbonated beverages and I don't drink any alcohol or anything like that anymore. I just improved my diet. I just made a conscience effort in all aspects to prepare myself and get myself ready and give myself the best chance that I possibly could have in making it on an NBA club. How hard was it to give up soda?

Chamber with Fitzsimmons Tom Chambers with then Head Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons
TC: I've been drinking it since I was a kid and in my bottle, my grandfather gave me Pepsi when I was a child and I love it. I've always called it the nectar of the gods. And yet I was fooling myself. It was just one of the things that people said I couldn't do and I didn't know if I could do and I just wanted to take charge and take control of those things. And basically I say it was me taking control but it wasn't. It was my father in Heaven, giving Him the reins, going back to Him and doing what He would want me to do. And I wanted to make sure that I could do those things and I could. I have not even one time wanted a beer, wanted a Pepsi, wanted to eat something I shouldn't eat. It's just been a total commitment and I probably couldn't have done it myself. It's just been a transformation of me that people can't believe. They say 'You've got to stop losing weight,' 'You've got to do this,' well I don't have to. All I've lost is body fat. I'm in the weight room lifting more than I've ever lifted before. I'm stronger than I've ever been before. I can't remember when I haven't had any pain running or jumping or feeling explosive. So everything I've done, I think, is for a positive and physically I feel better than I can ever remember feeling. When did you begin this new eating program?

TC: July 27th. It's only been a couple months. I was 264 pounds on July 27th and I'm 228 now. I've been 228 for almost three weeks. In one month, I probably shed 30 pounds. What was it about July 27?

TC: Well, some things are personal. It was just a big transition day. It was a day where I saw the light and finally realized what was important. Me sitting around and hanging out, not accomplishing anything and resting on my laurels wasn't what I wanted to go through the rest of my life being. I always wanted to be retired. I always wanted to be done so I could sit back, but when I was sitting back I was miserable. I wasn't happy sitting in the house. My wife didn't want me to be in the house anymore. She wanted me to go out and do something because I was happier when I'm out doing something. It was something that I saw and the only way I could get back to the NBA was to do something drastic. Drastic it was and drastic it took to get me motivated and pumped up and going and I'm just glad that I'm taking it one day at a time now. I feel very good about what's happened and I plan on continuing even if I don't play in the NBA this season, I plan on continuing going forward and going ahead and improving myself. Because I have a lot to do and a lot to accomplish. What was your experience in Charlotte like last season?

TC: It was just like the other ones I'd had the last few years. I was disappointed that I didn't give myself as good a chance as I would have liked. There were other extenuating circumstances, but I'm not one now at this point in time to point the finger anywhere but myself. I wasn't ready. Physically, I wasn't ready. I wasn't motivated like I should have been. I didn't have the drive I should have had. I was trying to convince myself that I was, but I wasn't ready and that's one of the reasons that I wanted to come back here. I didn't want to end on that note. You're being a little hard on yourself aren't you? I mean, you called yourself a "taker."

TC: I have been. I mean I've taken everything I could get. I mean, I've worked hard at things, but I've done them all for personal reasons, to benefit Tom Chambers and at this point I want to give back. I've been blessed with a lot of talent and physical attributes and a special family and people have looked up to me and respected me for a long time, but I don't feel an equal balance of give and take. I've taken a lot more than I've given. I have given people a lot to cheer about and I have a lot of fans here and I've done some wonderful things, but I feel that I need to balance that out a little bit better. You sort of left Phoenix on bad terms after the 1992-93 season. Looking back, are you disappointed about how that season went for you?

TC: I'm not disappointed on the season. I think I did a good job that season. I came off the bench and contributed and we had a good year, we really did. There were some things that I'm sure everybody would change about that season, but it's not that. It was at the end, when I knew that I was going to be released and I knew that they were going to use my money, because my money was worth more than me. I was throwing a pity party for myself and I was feeling sorry for myself rather than being thankful and being grateful for all that happened here. And from that point until now has been disappointing to me compared to the level I was on before that point. The Suns lost in the Finals to the Bulls that year, but there was still a parade held in their honor. An estimated 300,000 fans lined the streets of downtown Phoenix for the festivities, but you weren't there. You were the only player on the team who did not show up. Do you ever regret that?

TC: Yeah, I do, and it's something that's bothered me for a long time. It was something, at the time, that I thought was best for me. I had plans for a long time to leave town and we didn't know we'd be that far obviously. I felt bad but I felt it would be the best thing to take the pressure off the parade because they were going to release me and I didn't want to be around and have negative feelings when we were really celebrating a great season. But, yes, I do feel bad and I've regretted that ever since that day. How did this whole situation come about with you back in Phoenix?

TC: I just called Danny (Ainge) and told him my intentions and what I felt was important and that I needed a goal. Without him doing his part, without him saying, 'We'll let you have a run at this thing,' I probably wouldn't have been motivated to lose all the weight and do all those things. So I owe a lot to the fact that Danny had faith in me and gave me this opportunity that was so important. How confident are you that you'll make this team?

TC: Well, I'm becoming more confident every day because my body has responded better than I thought it could. Because of the personnel they've got, it means I have less of a chance but I still think that I do have a chance because I can do a lot of things that I've done in the past. It's a simple game. I can shoot the jumper and if someone comes at me I can still go to the basket. So, I still feel I can contribute. This is going to be a very tough team because they have about four or five very good players in my position. But, we'll just have to see how it works out. How special would it be for you to retire here in Phoenix?

TC: Absolutely. That's why I'm here. I told Danny, even though I feel like I can contribute and this team may be one that I can't contribute on, I don't want to go somewhere else and finish up. I want to finish up here and that's why I'm here.

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