By Alex Starkman, Sports Talk Philly Staff
Maurice Cheeks has finally reached the pinnacle of his NBA career, as he was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Friday night.
Cheeks, a second round pick to the Sixers in the 1978 draft from West Texas A&M University, is most deserving of this prestigious honor, as he has the statistical numbers, an impressive resume and is well respected in seemingly all NBA circles, both past and present.
Cheeks was the quintessential point guard, the consummate teammate and the driving force for one of the Sixers’ greatest eras, which spanned 11 seasons, from 1978-1989.
For the numbers, Cheeks is currently fifth all-time in the NBA in steals, which is more than Scottie Pippen, Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson. Cheeks is 13th all-time in assists, with more than Jerry West, Clyde Drexler and Walt Frazier and is 70th all-time in total games played, with more than Dominique Wilkins, Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson.
His resume is also impressive, as he was named to the all-star team in the Eastern conference four times, made the all-defensive team five times and won an NBA title with the Sixers in the 1982-83 season.
But the deciding factor to all of this, numbers and accomplishments aside, is that Maurice Cheeks is a hall of fame teammate, basketball player, son, coach, father and man. It didn’t take long to notice this in watching his induction speech. He unselfishly thanked others, most notably his mother, in his quest to join the NBA’s most cherished fraternity.
Cheeks was also joined on stage by his longtime teammate Julius Erving and former coach and Hall of Fame small forward Billy Cunningham.
"Playing for the Sixers and for the city of Philadelphia was beyond anything I could have dreamed. I had some amazing teammates," Cheeks said in his induction speech. "Can you imagine as a rookie, the first person you see when you walk into the gym being Dr. J? He treated me with open arms and taught me how to be a pro and how to conduct myself. Thank you, Doc."
Cheeks was sure to point out the people who were influential to his success, both in life and on the basketball court.
"I am humbled beyond belief as I stand here knowing I did not get here on my own," Cheeks said in his speech. "I have many people to thank."
This list was beautifully explained and rooted in love, as Cheeks went down the list of people deserving his thanks and praise, from childhood friends, his two children, former teammates Bobby Jones and Moses Malone and his three brothers.
But his most sincere and emotional thank you was directed towards his mother, his very first coach, "Mama Cheeks."
With tears streaming down his face, Erving walked over to Cheeks to console him in a truly beautiful moment, which perfectly summarized their wonderful bond and friendship.
"I am humble because of you," he said. "There is nothing you wouldn't do for me and for us. I love you so, so much."
For the quiet and shy Cheeks, his journey to becoming a Hall of Fame player was never expected, but for those who know and love him, he's everything you want in a player and a man.
For that in itself, Maurice Cheeks has always been a Hall of Famer, with Friday just serving as a public service announcement to the basketball world.
Watch Cheeks’ full induction speech here at NBA.com.