Nobody was more surprised than Tom Chambers when he was voted most valuable player at Sunday's National Basketball Assn. All-Star game.
"It seems unreal," Chambers said. "I can't believe it. Tom Chambers isn't a household name in basketball. I wanted to show people that I wasn't just taking up space on the court."
Chambers, a 6-foot 10-inch forward for the Seattle SuperSonics, wasn't even supposed to be playing. The former Clipper was named to the West team last week when Ralph Sampson of the Houston Rockets was injured.
Chambers, the only SuperSonic player in the All-Star game, got an ovation from the crowd of 34,275 fans at the Kingdome during pregame introductions.
Asked why he had started Chambers, when he could have started Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, West All-Star Coach Pat Riley said: "I didn't want to be booed in front of 40,000 people before the game started. I think it was a great coaching move."
Chambers shook off his slow start and scored a game-high 34 points in 29 minutes as the West came back to beat the East, 154-149, in overtime.
Boston Celtic star Larry Bird paid Chambers the ultimate compliment, saying: "Tom Chambers played better than everyone."
Seattle Coach Bernie Bickerstaff and Milwaukee Buck center Jack Sikma, a former Sonic star, were among the first to congratulate Chambers: "Nice game, Tom," Bickerstaff said. "I hope you calm down by tomorrow night at practice."
Said CBS sportscaster Pat O'Brien as he presented Chambers the MVP trophy: "The greatest basketball player in the world for today is Tom Chambers."
Chambers was surrounded by photographers, and fans were asking for his autograph after he accepted the award.
"I've never seen this many reporters in my life," he said. "I play here 41 times a year and people don't have to stand in line to get my autograph. They can get it any time at a Sonic game."
Fans did a double take when a bearded Jerry Lucas was introduced before Saturday's old-timers' game.
"I've had it for four or five years," Lucas said of his beard. "People don't recognize me because of it."
Lucas wore jogging shoes during the game. "I don't own a pair of basketball shoes," he said. "I haven't played in 13 years.
"I wish they had had the three-point shot when I was playing," said Lucas who, despite playing forward and center in the NBA, was a gifted outside shooter.
Larry Bird didn't bother to remove his warmup jacket in successfully defending his three-point shooting title.
Said Bird: "I always shoot before the game with a warmup on, so why change?"
Kurt Nimphius, the only player in the NBA with his own psychic, said that the psychic predicted his recent trade from the Clippers to Detroit.
Nimphius also told a Detroit reporter that the day he was traded he bought a piece of bubble gum with a fortune that read: "Today, you're going to go on a long trip."
Hottest trade rumors at the All-Star game:
--The Clippers, who already have three first-round picks in next June's draft, are trying to acquire another one, by trading forward Michael Cage.
Former New York Knick star Walt Frazier, 41, who also played in the legends' game, apparently is in good shape.
"I still do all the things I did when I was playing," Frazier said. "I just don't play anymore. I haven't played in two years. But when you play in a game like this, you realize how much you miss it."
Frazier on Laker center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was older than some of the old-timers: "He's like Wilt. He can play for as long as he wants to. I think Wilt could still play.
After a tribute to Julius Erving at the All-Star gala concert Saturday night, one of the people Dr. J. thanked was his tax attorney.
Quipped a fan: "He must have saved the Doctor a million dollars a year."