April 20, 2014

The Philly Fifty, #32: Maurice Cheeks, Sixers

For the complete list and explanation of criteria and scoring, check out the Philly Fifty page

Longevity – 5

Cheeks, drafted in the 2nd round out of West Texas A&M University, spent the first 11 seasons of his career in Philadelphia from 1978 to 1989.

Peak – 3

Cheeks was a very, very good player, but was never the best player on his own team. He was never selected to an All-NBA team but was considered one of the top-5 PG’s in the league.

Popularity – 5

Cheeks possessed a laundry list of attributes that make his an immensely popular player in Philadelphia: Unselfish play, work ethic, defensive skill, leadership and a championship ring. Even a brief, unsuccessful coaching stint recently couldn’t tarnish that.

Team Success – 4

The Sixers were 582-320 during Cheeks’ tenure. That’s an average of 53-29 per 82-game season. They won 15 playoff series in 11 years, and of course were NBA champions in 1983 and lost in the Finals two other seasons.

Awards – 2

As mentioned above, Cheeks was regarded as a 2nd or 3rd best player on his teams. He did make 4 all-star games, and was selected to the 1st team All-defense 4 times, and the 2nd team once.

Stats – 4

Cheeks is the all-time franchise leader in assists and steals. He is 3rd in win shares, 6th in points, 14th in blocks and 16th in rebounds. He retired as the all-time steal leader in NBA history and currently is 5th behind Stockton, Jordan, Kidd and Payton. He was 5th in assists all-time when he retired, and is now 10th behind Stockton, Kidd, M. Jackson, Magic, Big-O, Nash, Isiah, Payton and Rod Strickland (really? when did that happen?).

Historical Standing – 2

Cheeks is still on the outside looking in.

Excitement – 2

Cheeks wasn’t really a flashy player.

Total: 27

For the complete list and explanation of criteria and scoring, check out the Philly Fifty page

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  1. jjg says:

    Good, quick, durable point guard who was surrounded by all-star talent.  Worked hard on D, elite pickpocket, pushed the ball – ran textbook breaks, dished without mustard, good shot selector (.523), drained open Js, hit his foul shots (.793), epitomized ‘team player’; ascended to upper tier among peers – couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.  The late player/coach/scout Jack McMahon found Maurice, a needed sparkplug/court general, at little West Texas State – 36th pick in ’78.  

    Mo calling cards were ‘honest effort’, ‘understanding of the game’ and ‘execution’.  He was south side of Chicago tough; beneath easygoing exterior lurked game winning vestiges of “bad, bad Leroy Brown.”  What Sixers fan will ever forget his elated, prancing dunk at the Fabulous Forum that capped a sweep of the Nixon-Magic-Worthy-Wilkes-Kareem-Cooper-McAdoo Lakers?

    Thanks for the memories, Mo!    

  2. Chris McC. says:

    Mo Cheeks: American Hero.

  3. The Real Rob says:

    Well deserved for such a classy guy!  Also, the Sixers gave Hip Hop the boot!

  4. Dave T says:

    I hate that I’m just young enough to have missed out on watching the “Fo-Fo-Fo” Sixers at their peak with the Dr. J, Cheeks, Toney, Collins, and at the end Moses Malone lineups.  (My younger days were remembering the Charles Barkley-Hersey Hawkins Division Champ team).  I feel I don’t have enough sense of Cheeks as a player being unable to watch him, but obviously all the accolades about his game and personality are well known.  

    I’m curious which 90′s – 00′s PG’s Cheeks would be compared to?  A less explosive/offensive version of Gary Payton?  A better shooting and better leader Mookie Blaylock?  I feel like Tony Parker is an apt comparison…not for similar games, but for the fact that they both seem to be multiple time all stars, perennial borderline all stars when they weren’t selected, and were in the top 4-6 top PG range, without ever being a dominating, All NBA caliber force (although T-Parker may have been All NBA 3rd Team one time)…that were surrounded by very talented teammates.


  5. joof says:

    That’s an interesting question Dave. I also missed out on him..I think we be about the same age. I remember  the teams with Johny Dawkins, Hershey hawkins, Rick Mahorn Mike Gminski etc. For some reason, I didnt know they ever won the division. I thought they were a team in the mold as the Gang Green Eagles…..good regular season, couldnt beat the big time teams in the playoffs…
    I stopped watching basketball between the time Barkley left and Iverson came so my memories pretty fuzzy. I dont think he would compare to Payton because Payton was more of a superstar….Im not sure if T parker was enough of a true point guard to compare to him…and I dont remember M Blaylock enough to compare him…..Im thinking he would be a version of a 90′s true point guard….Like a mark price with more speed, or J stockton with a little more of an alll around game….Im even thinking maybe Scott skiles with more speed

  6. Ken Bland says:

    Cheeks either totally, or largely played when my attentions were placed elsewhere.  But I’d be curious if you asked Jerry West whether he belongs ahead of Hal Greer on this list how he’d respond, or conversely does he  rate possibly ahaed of others who no doubt will be higher.  That excludes Wilt, but most anyone else brought more headlines, and while guys like Iverson and Barkley certainly had substance with that, it’s not like their attention grabbing skills might not add to their legend more than a Cheeks, or Bobby Jones who certainly compared contributions wise, even if it wound up less. 

    “Other than Stockton, he’s the best point guard I’ve ever seen play the game,” said Charles Barkley.


  7. The Real Rob says:

    Let’s not forget about that national anthem assist, after watchen Lauren Alaina singing the national anthem yesterday!

  8. joof says:

    Interesting quote, considereing Barkley played against Isiah Thomas…..I am going to assume Barkley considered Magic Johnson to be out of the equation bc he could play multiple positions

  9. Ken Bland says:

    Interesting quote, considereing Barkley played against Isiah Thomas…..I am going to assume Barkley considered Magic Johnson to be out of the equation bc he could play multiple positions>>

    Excellent point about Zeke.  Geez, what a crummy exec career for such a good player.  But my intended points is this…I might get in trouble for poor recollection, but about the only times I recall Earvin really stepping away from the point per se was in the ’80 finals when Kareem missed Game 6 with the sprain, and he played center, and when he came back post HIV, he was a power forward.  Charles is pretty cool, and brutally honest, but I think he’s off base not thinking of Magic as a PG.

    I also wonder how Jerry West would compare Cheeks with Bob Cousy.

  10. jjg says:

    With due respect to Mo for a career of staunch play (as leveled above), forget the NBA legends (Cooz, ‘O’, Walt “Clyde” Frazier, Lenny Wilkins), small-ish but tough-ish locals Guy Rodgers and Mahdi Abdul-Rahman aka (the recently departed) Walt Hazzard (traded straight up for Wilkins in ’68) would’ve given Cheeks a run for his money at their peaks. 

    Remember stat freaks, assists back in the day required a pass that led directly to a hoop, not 2 more dribbles/moves by the depositor as has padded the more modern playermakers’ ledgers. 
    Also, there were more conscientious cops in the lane-beat back then making driving somewhat more more hazardous … Dip, Russ, Nate, Bells, Embry, Reed, Zelmo, Elvin, etc (pay little mind to all-time lists; blocked shots weren’t recorded until ’73-’74; safe to say #13, #6 & #42 might be included had Harvey Pollack come from a larger family).

    The unofficial ”On Your Ass (When You Weren’t Lookin’)” list is headed by the 60s Celtics subs.

  11. joof says:

    I pretty much Magic Johnson in my list of top 5 of all time (convenient that there was little overlap in their positions) Magic PG, Jordan SG, Bird SF, Wilt at C, and Id have to try to remember who I had for PF…    Im assuming Barkley may have Stockton as his PG unless he would chose one from the 70′s or 60′s
    I have a hard time looking at things prior to the mid 80′s bc I never saw those players play

    • Ken Bland says:

      There are a lot of names that could be inserted onto an all time starting 5, and you couldn’t really argue against it.  It’d be pretty ridiculous to leave Mike off any list, but even Magic and Wilt had some degree of competition.  Push to shove, Wilt and Magic prolly get the nod, but it’s not like Russell was chopped liver.  Shaq seems representative to me, and Kareem wasn’t a real rebounder, but it’s not like he’s not in the discussion.  Nate Thurmond was real good for the SF Warriors, and probably didn’t get as much attention as deserved being a pre ESPN and similar media guy. Walt Bellamy would have had a field day getting publicity if basketball stats got the attention baseball stats do today.  You look at his numbers, and you’d think he was an all-timer. 

      Until Magic, the standard was Oscar Robertson.  Like Wilt, he got trampled on by Boston’s success which did his reputation no favors.  I always thought Wally Jones played him well for the 6ers, and thought I only had limited chances to see Oscar at his best, but anyone thinking Magic, good as he was, and I mean he was good is such a clear cut choice over Oscar is prolly wrong.  Even with a good amount of NY pub attached to his career, I thought Clyde Frazier was fantastic, too.
      There’s no denying Larry Bird’s absolute greatness.  There are probably several players you could put in the discussion, and not look foolish.  I loved Billy Cunningham, and after he finally became a starter, he was terrific.  You could discuss Elgin Baylor and not be foolish.  I wonder how convinced long time Boston fans are that Bird was better than Havlicek.  As a fan of the opponent, I always viewed Havlicek as thee ultimate pain in the ass.

      My final point is that when you name an all time NBA team, there’s zero wrong with taking a shot at who you feel are thee elite players at the respective positions.  But if you’re looking for the ultimate Dream 5, for purposes of winning a series, or game, because of the team element of the sport, you might choose differently.  Not that your 5 would lose many games, but I might pick 5 other players that might matchup favorably in a series.  That was always a fascinating attraction to the sport.  You might not think of Dennis Rodman as an all timer, but a guy like him could have a big influence on which of 2 all time NBA teams would win.  His 5 rings, Mike’s skill set, and Scottie’s duly noted, were NOT a coincidence. 

      So this post is complete in my mind, I’m mentioning Earl Monroe’s name.  Now I feel better.  Pardon the self indulgence.

  12. joof says:

    Yea. its interesting to make top 5 lists….I would probably make a list which allowed for better cohesion between the players instead of throwing them together…..I dont think I would take wilt if the team you choose actually had a playoff to it…not like that could ever happen unless it was a video game ha. I think NFL films played games between past dynasties from the first quarter to the 4th…they used old game footage and acted like it was related to different plays
    I think your information from years past is interesting. I have no idea who some of the players you mentioned really were besides the team they played on….

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