Maurice Cheeks in so many ways was the 1980s version of Slater Martin.
Martin was the venerable point guard for the Minneapolis Lakers and St. Louis Hawks.Through his stellar defense and command of the offense, he helped lead his teams to five NBA titles. However, Martin was not a great scorer. He just seemed to do everything else magnificent, though. But since he didn’t score a lot, he often went unappreciated.
The same is true of Maurice Cheeks, who was more refined offensively than Martin, but still didn’t garner much limelight. Mo didn’t take many shots but the ones he did take were likely to go in. For his career, Cheeks shot a remarkable 52.3% from the field as a point guard. But his greatest contribution was in defending opposing guards and in orchestrating an offense filled with bigger stars.
A lesser point guard may have been overwhelmed by trying to satisfy the offensive needs of players like Moses Malone, Andrew Toney, Charles Barkley, and Julius Erving, but Maurice was always in command and helped keep the Philadelphia 76ers in offensive equilibrium. During his career with Philly, he averaged 7.3 assists in his quest to feed all these hungry mouths. Those dimes came in yeoman-like fashion from Cheeks, but was often finished in dazzling fashion by Malone, Erving, Darryl Dawkins, and Bobby Jones.
Despite a gentlemanly and equitable offensive disposition, Cheeks was nasty on defense. He hounded, harassed, and harangued his opponents. When he retired in 1993, no player in NBA history had grabbed more steals than Maurice’s 2310. His steals total is now 5th all-time and his average of 2.1 steals per game still remains in the all-time top 10. From 1983 to 1986, Cheeks was selected to the All-Defensive 1st Team each and every season.
But since he had such a quiet demeanor and played alongside such personalities as Dr. J, the Round Mound of Rebound, and Chocolate Thunder, Cheeks never quite garnered the attention deserved of such a great point guard. It’s no coincidence that during his 13 years playing starters minutes, Cheeks missed the postseason just once.
He played point guard flawlessly. When called on he could knock down a jumper. When needed he could rise up for a dunk of his own. When necessary he’d jump a passing lane and stop an opposing fast break in its tracks. Just watching Mo Cheeks play the game is a pleasure of simple greatness.
Seasons Played: 1978 – 1993
4x All-Defensive 1st Team (1983-’86)
All-Defensive 2nd Team (1987)
4x All-Star (1983, 1986-’88)
NBA - 1101 Games
11.1 PPG, 6.7 APG, 2.8 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 52.3% FG, 79.3% FT
Contemporary NBA Ranks (1978-79 through 1992-93 season)
4th Assists, 8th APG
1st Steals, 5th SPG
3rd Games Played, 4th Minutes Played