Sean Chambers was a fierce competitor during his distinguished 13-year PBA career as Alaska's resident import from 1989 to 2001.
The six-foot-one Chambers faced taller, bulkier imports during his heyday in the Philippine pro league. But the former California Polytechnic State University Mustang played big for his size, outmaneuvering and even outmuscling defenders to get his two-point basket or an and-1 play.
After a disappointing finish in the 1990 Third Conference where Alaska blew a two-games-to-none lead to eventually lose, 3-2, against Purefoods in the Finals, Chambers came back strong in the same conference the following season.
With an average of over 37 points per contest in the 1991 Third Conference, he finally led Alaska to the franchise's first-ever PBA championship when the team, then known as the Air Force, defeated Wes Matthews-led Ginebra, 3-1 in the title series.
Chambers' blue-collar attitude, defensive spunk and instant offense served as his trademark, and he feared no one when he stepped on the court. But he showed his soft side when he started talking about the retirement ceremony Alaska management gave him in 2001.
"When I retired, I know I was not playing well and I know management was ready to make a move and I did not want to make it a difficult situation for them as well," Chambers said, as he recalled what would turn out to be an emotional ceremony.
"I knew letting me go was gonna be kind of hard for everybody, kind of bring tears in my eyes. But I did not want to have that over (then Alaska coach) Tim (Cone) or over (team owner) Fred (Uytengsu). A 13-year career and six championships in the Philippines, I would do it all over again. They didn't owe (it to me) to let me finish out that season in 2001," added the 55-year-old Chambers during his conversation recently in an interview on An Eternity of Basketball.
"And the way they allowed me to retire and the way they allowed me to have that ceremony at halftime of a game? Priceless."
Sean Chambers' first Alaska practices
Sean Chambers was surprised when he first practiced with Alaska, with late teammates and even a presidential daughter showing up.
Chambers admitted he never imagined making the Philippines his second home since first coming over as a member of the Los Angeles Jaguars in the first PBA-IBA World Championship Cup in 1987.
As a 22-year-old forward, Chambers introduced himself to the PBA fans as an athletic wingman who shocked two-time former Best Import Billy Ray Bates by winning the weeklong tournament's slam dunk contest.
Chambers recalled how his first trip here in 1987 eventually became the defining moment of his professional basketball career.
"It's been such a journey for me to first come over here, first as a guest to play in the IBA and be somebody that people really didn't know. To later, be a player and import to play for one of the teams and then, later on, become part of the actual Filipino family and the way people have accepted me across the country and across the the PBA," Chambers said.
"Now I felt like I was truly one of their own, not outside anymore as I was basically Pinoy at heart and so I was like, maraming, maraming salamat po, mahal na mahal kita. (thank you very much and I love you)," he said.
Chambers said he was even more surprised when during the retirement ceremony, several former teammates and foes showed up to pay tribute to him.
"So the big emotional part of that was in my career, from 1989 to 2001, almost 200 to 300 different guys maybe I (had) played with over our team Alaska," he recalled.
"I went from the 1980s to the 90s to 2000s, I played in three different decades," Chambers added, citing former teammates Frankie Lim, Jojo Lastimosa, Bong Hawkins, and Don Allado, plus rivals Vergel Meneses and Alvin Patrimonio as among the big names who showed up.
By the time Chambers hung up his jersey, the American ranked second in total games played behind Norman Black. He is also third in the all-time scoring list after Black and the late Bobby Parks.