13 Teams, 1 Journey Hits The Big Apple

Alex Chambers stood on the Madison Square Garden floor shortly before the Liberty’s Sunday matinee matchup against the Atlanta Dream. He had just finished interviewing players on his handheld video camera in the locker room and was now fielding questions of his own as a cameraman documented every moment of his visit to the Big Apple. Moments later, as the teams warmed up, he took center court and showed off a navy blue t-shirt that read “13 Teams, 1 Journey” to the thousands in attendance.
 
Chambers is living every sports fans dream.
 
Chambers, a special education teacher to fourth- and fifth-graders from Phoenix, embarked on a three-week, 13-city tour of the WNBA on June 28, visiting every arena and, with the help of the league, meeting and interviewing his favorite athletes. His stop at the Garden was the 11th of his journey, which will wrap up with the WNBA All-Star Game on July 25 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.
 
“I just got this idea to go visit arenas and it turned into being every arena,” said Chambers, a Phoenix Mercury season-ticket holder since 2000. “It just snowballed. Once I get an idea, I got to go with it.
 
While the purpose of the trip is to raise breast cancer awareness following the death of his friend, Cyndee Luque, from the disease, Chambers is also bringing attention to the WNBA. Chambers funded the tour on his own by “spreading out the financial requirements” over the past year, but the league has recognized his efforts by providing a WNBA press credential, giving him access to the players before and after games.
 
“They saw some of my postings on Facebook and they called me in and said, ‘Hey, what are you doing? What’s this all about? We’re interested. Let’s connect. Let’s hook up,’” Chambers said before taking his courtside seat next to WNBA President Donna Orender.
 
The league has added links on its official website to his blog, YouTube channel, Facebook page and Twitter feed. Sports television stations and newspapers have also taken notice, including the MSG Network, which interviewed Chambers an hour before game time.
 
“This all just came as a big surprise and I’m taking it in stride,” Chambers said. “But I’m glad because if this is a positive reflection of the league, then I’m happy to do it.”
 
Chambers has met everyone from superstars Lauren Jackson and Candace Parker to the lesser-known players in the league. He describes meeting each player as “surreal” and “amazing”. And he always has a story to tell from each city.
 
“When I’m talking to Ashley Battle, I’m holding the camera out with one hand and then Essence Carson walks up behind the camera and holds the camera. So Essence Carson was my cameraman and I’m interviewing Ashley Battle,” the enthusiastic Chambers said. “It was a surreal moment and I couldn’t believe I was standing here with these athletes. It’s so amazing.”
 
Chambers can’t name a favorite player because he’ll “start with one and keep going.” He also can’t name his favorite arena, even though Liberty center Janel McCarville was pushing for him to say the Garden. “He said each arena was good in its own right, but we all know Madison Square Garden is the best,” McCarville cracked.
 
McCarville added, “Not everyone gets to see all the arenas and experience every venue the way he has. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m glad he’s doing it.”
 
Liberty guard Loree Moore compared his experience to that of a WNBA player going through the grind of a full season. But no players have had to attend games in three different cities in three straight nights, as Chambers did when he spent Friday in Indiana, Saturday in Washington D.C. and Sunday in New York. 
 
When Chambers finally returns home next week, he’ll likely spend the rest of the summer working on projects around the house and attending Mercury and Diamondbacks games. First, though, he will attend a Sun game before the big finale.
 
“It will be nice getting home,” Chambers said, “but I’m looking forward to the All-Star Game.”

By Mike Slane