For the second year in a row, former Sixers great Maurice Cheeks is a finalist for election to the Naismith Hall of Fame. Last season, Cheeks fell short in the election process where players Chris Mullin and Dennis Rodman gained enshrinement while coaches Herb Magee and Tex Winter joined them.
This year, with second-time finalist Reggie Millier, Cheeks is a frontrunner to be elected.
Cheeks and Miller are joined on the ballot by scorer extraordinaire Bernard King, center Ralph Sampson, forward Jamaal Wilkes, referee Hank Nichols, and coaches Rick Pitino, Don Nelson, Dick Motta and Bill Fitch. Katrina McClain, a two-time gold medalist for Team USA womens basketball is also a candidate, as well as the All-American Red Heads, the first professional female basketball team. The announcement of the inductees will come during Final Four weekend in New Orleans, and enshrinement will take place on Sep. 7.
If Cheeks wins election to the Hall of Fame, the induction ceremony in September will be a decidedly Philadelphia affair. Already, Chet Walker, a forward on the 1966-67 championship team, was chosen for induction by the veterans committee and former general manager Pat Williams was presented the John Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award. Williams was the GM of the 1982-83 championship team that featured Cheeks and Hall of Famers Moses Malone, Julius Erving and coach Billy Cunningham.
So how good are Cheeks chances? When he retired he was the NBAs all-time leader in steals. Cheeks also made four All-Star teams and four All-Defense teams. In 1985-86, Cheeks led the league in minutes played and in his first 13 seasons, he missed just 56 games.
As far as true point guards of his era go, Cheeks was easily amongst the best in the game.
Williams, the GM who selected Cheeks in the second round of the 1978 draft from West Texas A&M was succinct in his praise for his former player.
He was the best all-around true point guard in the history of basketball, Williams told The Sporting News.
Currently working as the top assistant to former Sixers teammate Scott Brooks with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Cheeks is one of those players some around basketball think already is in the Hall of Fame.
Its actually surprising that he hasnt been included in the Hall of Fame already, Brooks told Sporting News. I have known him since I was his rookie back in my rookie year in the late 80s in Philadelphia. I have known him for more than 20 years. He represents himself and the NBA and the game of basketball in the highest form that you can represent it.
"When he left the game, he was first in history in steals, fifth in assists, he has been a head coach twice, the team he played on in 83 might be one of the best teams ever. Maurice is a great guy and I hope the voters look at him in the way I look at him.
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