SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Maurice Cheeks, the longtime star guard for the 76ers in the 1980s, broke down in tears Friday night during his induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
"Charles [Barkley] told me not to cry, but I'm about to talk about my mother right here," Cheeks said during his speech, calling her "my very first coach, Mama Cheeks."
Fellow Hall of Famer Julius Erving then approached Cheeks and patted him on the shoulder while Cheeks wiped his eyes.
Cheeks, an assistant coach for the Oklahoma City Thunder, was a four-time NBA all-star and a member of the the Sixers' 1983 championship team. He retired at No. 5 on the NBA's career steals list.
He was joined in the induction class by fellow former NBA stars Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Ray Allen and Grant Hill; women's stars Tina Thompson, Katie Smith and Ora Mae Washington; coach Lefty Driesell, ABA and NBA star Charlie Scott, longtime executives Rod Thorn and Rick Welts; and Croatian star and former Boston Celtic Dino Radja.
Cheeks said he was intimidated when he first arrived in Philadelphia.
"Can you imagine as a rookie, walking into the gym and the first person you see is Dr. J?" he said. "I remember almost turning around and walking out."
>>MARCUS HAYES: Maurice Cheeks on being Sixers' newest Hall of Famer
— Career spanned 15 seasons, from 1978-79 to 1992-93. Played 11 seasons with the 76ers, parts of two with the New York Knicks and one with the San Antonio Spurs, Atlanta Hawks and New Jersey Nets.
— Career averages of 11.1 points, 6.7 assists, and 2.1 steals.
— Considered one of the top floor generals in NBA history.
— Averaged 12.2 points, 7.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game for the Sixers.
— Made four all-star appearances.
— Was four-time NBA all-defensive first team.
— Ranks fifth all-time in the NBA in steals (2,130) and 13th in assists (7,392).
— Was lead guard for the Sixers' 1983 championship team.
— Is currently an assistant coach with Oklahoma City Thunder. Was an assistant coach with the Sixers from 1994-2001, head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers from 2001-2005 and head coach of the Sixers from 2005-08.
He was the consummate floor general and steadying force in the Sixers' drive to the 1983 NBA championship and his 15-year pro career. But what impressed me most about Mo was his professionalism and the classy way he carried himself, both as a player and coach. He set a high standard for others to match. — Rick O'Brien
During his playing days with the 76ers, Maurice Cheeks was the shy one, rarely talking to the media – after all, the team had Julius Erving and later Charles Barkley to do that – and Cheeks hardly ever made eye contact with the PRISM cameramen when they scanned the team during the national anthem. He never wanted to be in the spotlight. So it was kind of funny when the players selected Cheeks to be their representative on Julius Erving's retirement night. It didn't take long for Cheeks to prove why he didn't speak much. Introduced by emcee Al Meltzer as "the quiet man," Cheeks began the presentation by saying, "I told Doc before we got out here that since he's retiring, you know we're in trouble because I'm going to be the next one … the speaker for the team. (Mo, Doc and crowd laugh)."
Then the presentation and more laughter followed.
"So the team got together," Cheeks said, "so we tried to come up with something for Doc. Teams around the league gave him a putter and they gave him a set of balls (laughter from the crowd), so we tried to figure out something he could think about … (Cheeks, realizing what he said, shyly turns away laughing nervously, while acting a bit embarrassed, and Erving starts laughing) … so we came up with (Cheeks starts laughing while looking down and the crowd starts cheering) … so we came up with a round-trip ticket to any place he wants to learn how to play golf."
I am sure there were teammates who were shocked when Cheeks became an NBA head coach and had to address the media every night. — Mark Perner
For me, it was the seemingly effortless way he played the game. He was a rookie in 1978 when I was just getting serious about the NBA. I grew to admire the game and his game at the same time. May 31, 1983 will always be special, the culmination of a championship season. To see the way he directed that team of stars, quietly guiding them while others had the spotlight was fun to watch. The final dunk to cap the title- a series sweep of the Lakers was so appropriate. — Todd Shaner
When you think of the 1982-83 76ers team that won the NBA title, Doc and Moses immediately pop into your mind. And perhaps Andrew Toney. But Cheeks was the glue that held that team together, the unselfish and unheralded point guard who made everyone around him better. Flashy, no. Unflappable, yes. — Sam Carchidi
When I was about 8 or 9 years old, Mo Cheeks saw me struggling to dribble a basketball during a Sixers practice at St. Joe's. I kept dribbling off my foot. He eventually came over and taught me how to keep my head up while using my fingertips to control the ball. I failed him as a student and kept doing it my way. Guess that's one reason why only one of us is in the Hall of Fame. Long overdue but couldn't have happened to a better guy. — Aaron Carter
One of my most vivid memories when I was covering the Sixers was one of the first games I saw. Maurice brought the ball upcourt and Julius Erving called for it. Cheeks, looked at him, chewing his gum steadily, and shook his head. Julius wasn't where Maurice thought he should be to get the ball. Julius dutifully repositioned himself and was allowed to receive a pass. That stuck with me. It didn't matter if you were Dr. J. You listened to Mo Cheeks because he was almost always right, and even if he wasn't, he was in charge. — Bob Ford