Looking back at Maurice Cheeks' Hall of Fame career
Maurice Cheeks heading to the Hall of Fame
Even while serving as the consummate floor general, Cheeks’ best skill was his defense.
The point guard began his career with 10 straight seasons of at least two steals per game and finished with a 2.1 average a night.
Cheeks’ top performance on the defensive end came during the 1978-79 postseason when he averaged 4.0 steals over the course of nine playoff games. That stands as the highest mark during a single postseason run in league history.
Cheeks was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive first team four times and the second team once. He ended his career in 1993 as the league’s all-time steals leader with 2,310 and now stands fifth behind John Stockton, Jason Kidd, Michael Jordan and Gary Payton. That’s some pretty good company. (AP Images)
None of that is to say Cheeks was a slouch on offense. He simply had some big-time mouths to feed during the course of his career, particularly in Philadelphia (Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Charles Barkley).
And he made sure that each one of his guys ate. Cheeks averaged 7.3 assists a night during his 11 seasons with the Sixers and 6.7 per game for his career. He is far and away the franchise leader in the category with 6,212. The closest Sixer to him is the legendary Hal Greer, who had 4,450 for the organization.
Cheeks, who had a career-best 21 assists in a regular-season game during the magical 1982-83 season, ended his playing days with 7,392 total assists. That was good enough for No. 11 all time when he retired and he now sits at 13th on the list. (AP Images)
Despite not being the top dog on his team, Cheeks’ all-around game garnered plenty of respect around the league.
The Chicago native earned his first All-Star nod en route to the Sixers’ 1982-83 title. He recorded 12.5 points (54.2 percent field goal shooting), 6.9 assists, 2.6 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game that season. The team posted an impressive 62-17 mark in the 79 games he started during the regular season. And, as you know, the team went on to nearly sweep its way to the championship with just one postseason loss.
Cheeks was just getting started as he received three more All-Star Game selections to finish with four for his career (’82-83, ’85-86, ’86-87, ’87-88). (USA Today Images)
Cheeks was only two years removed from his playing days and into coaching when the Sixers retired his No. 10 jersey. He is one of just nine players to have their number retired by the franchise (Allen Iverson, Dolph Schayes, Erving, Wilt Chamberlain, Greer, Bobby Jones, Billy Cunningham and Barkley).
The team bestowed another honor on Cheeks last December when it unveiled a statue of him along “76ers Legends Walk” at the training complex in Camden.
It took a little longer for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame to come around and induct Cheeks, but he will go in with 12 other members on Friday. The 2018 class includes greats such as Ray Allen, Kidd, Steve Nash and Tina Thompson. (USA Today Images)
Much like his playing days, one of Cheeks’ all-time greatest moments as a coach came on an assist.
On April 25, 2003, when serving as head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, Cheeks stepped in and helped 13-year-old Natalie Gilbert when she forgot the words to the national anthem.
Pure class. (YouTube)