Two years before debuting with the Alaska franchise in the PBA, Sean Chambers had already introduced himself to local basketball fans by pulling off a massive upset against an icon of an import.
In 1987, Chambers took the Philippine basketball circuit by storm after beating PBA imports Billy Ray Bates and Bobby Parks in a slam dunk contest that was a side event of the PBA-IBA World Challenge Cup, a mini-tournament featuring the Jaguars and the top three teams in that year's All-Filipino Conference. Chambers made his way into the championship round of the contest, where he faced Bates, the so-called "Black Superman" who was already a legend among local fans.
In the days leading to their showdown, Chambers was a little surprised that people kept reminding him who he was going up against.
"Everybody was telling me, 'You're gonna go against the Black Superman'," he recalled during Tuesday's episode of An Eternity of Basketball. "And I'm like, 'Okay, bring it on. Bring me the Black Superman.'"
"I was warming up at the ULTRA (former name of the PhilSports Arena). He (Bates) came out in the championship round, everybody stood up, screaming crazy. He came out in a black cape that had a Superman logo on it. Way before Shaquille O'Neal, way before Dwight Howard (did that)," Chambers said.
A day before the side show, he made a comment to the press that he would "be the kryptonite to the Black Superman," which was heavily quoted in the following days sports pages.
Chambers, however, made a prophet of himself as he bagged the trophy after Bates missed his last dunk. It was his claim to fame, and he quickly discovered the magnitude of his achievement in this basketball-crazy country.
"The next day we went out for a walk and went to a 7-11 (near the hotel). We were in there for about three or four minutes, then it was time for us to go back to the hotel. I swear the whole neighborhood had rushed to the 711 because they saw me beat the Black Superman," he said with a chuckle. "Instant celebrity. Some of the guards outside had to help us walk back to the hotel."
No harm, no foul physicality
Some members of the Jaguars grew up in tough neighborhoods in the US. Still, the level of physicality they encountered in the PBA stunned them at first.
Chambers recalled being on the receiving end of a hit from PBA great Philip Cezar, who was then playing for Great Taste.
"All I remember from that tournament is that Philip Cezar hit me in the back of my head," he said when asked about his first impression was on Philippine basketball.
The Jaguars were coming from South Korea where they played three games. The Koreans had a penchant for shooting the ball from long distance, and they were never known for physical plays, so what they experienced in Manila shocked Chambers and the rest of the Jaguars.
"Then we got to Manila (from Korea), it was like playing street basketball. Like no harm, no foul," said Chambers. "It took us a while to get used to it but once we got used to it we were very successful."
A couple of years later, Chambers returned to Manila to start what turned out to be a legendary career with the Alaska franchise under head coach Tim Cone that would last from 1989 to 2001.
All in all, Chambers won six championships - the most by any import - while also helping the franchise carve out a slice of history with a Grand Slam in 1996.
The one-time best import averaged 30.5 points (third in the all-time scoring list after Norman Black and Parks), 12.0 rebounds, and 4.7 assists.