Skip to main content

Mo Cheeks leads the charge vs. the Spurs (1979)

When they lost the memorable 1977 NBA finals with Portland Trail Blazers, Philadelphia 76ers led by superstar forward Julius ‘Dr.J’ Erving knew something needs to be done in order to go to the next level. On paper, they really had a great roster full of great individuals but it was evident that on-court they actually lacked leadership.

It was the 6’1’’ rookie point guard Maurice Edward Cheeks or simply Mo Cheeks who would help Philly to find that ‘little something they needed’ and, along with the addition of the man in the middle Moses Malone, provide 76ers with the right mixture of ingredients needed to win the title of the World Champions.

After losing to L.A.Lakers in 1980 and 1982 76ers finally did it with style in 1983, and thus became the only NBA team before the 1988-89 Pistons, to break into what seemed to be a decade long domination of Lakers and Celtics.

‘Little Mo’ already showed promise during his 1978-79 rookie campaign in which he averaged 8.4 points, 5.3 assists, 3.1 boards, and 2.1 steals in 29.4 minutes per contest. His most memorable performance came on April 22nd, 1979 in the Game 4 of 1979 Eastern Conference semifinals vs. San Antonio Spurs led by George Gervin, ">when he hit 12-19 shots for a game-high 33 points, to go along with 9 boards and 6 dimes.

During the mid-1980s, four-time All-Star became known for his hawking tireless defense on the opposing point guards what earned him four consecutive selections (1983-1986) to the NBA All-defensive team. As much as he has been known for defensive intensity and footwork, which resulted in him becoming one of the all-time NBA leaders in steals (5th with the total of 2310 steals), Cheeks' offensive trademark was the unstoppable fastbreak cross-court drive from basket to basket.

It was on this day, August 28th, 1989, that the quiet favorite of the crowd in Spectrum surprisingly learned that he was traded to San Antonio Spurs, which was projected to be led by the rookie center David Robinson.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

Sure, 'The Admiral's' presence in the paint was felt from his very first NBA game vs. visiting Lakers, but it was Mo Cheeks who provided Larry Brown's 'kindergarten' with some much needed experienced veteran leadership.

Savvy point guard would start all of his 50 games for the Spurs during the first part of 1989-90 becoming the key for the steady performance of the team which will make one of the greatest single-season record turnarounds in the NBA history. With Cheeks on the floor Spurs won 33 out of 50 games, turning the Hemisfair Arena into the NBA ‘fortress’ and losing only four home games during that span, two of those to contenders Lakers and Blazers.

But, on February 21st, 1990 Cheeks again got traded - this time for the creative Knicks point guard Rod Strickland, who previously had two great games vs. the Spurs as a Knick. 23-year old would pick up where Cheeks left but would commit a costly turnover while trying to make the behind the head pass, uncharacteristic for Cheeks, in the crucial moments of the Game 7 of 1990 Western Conference final series vs. Portland Trail Blazers.

So it's no wonder that Brown's assistant from that era, Gregg Popovich, has lately praised Cheeks, Naismith Hall-of-Fame Class of 2018 inductee, by vividly remembering the short stint they spent together with the 1989-90 Spurs.

After a year and a half in the Knicks uniform quiet Mo had a brief stint with Atlanta Hawks (1991-92) and New Jersey Nets (1992-93) where he served as a mentor to promising PGs Rumeal Robinson and Kenny Anderson.

Murray A. a.k.a. Marjan Crnogaj is a BN contributor and the co-author of the books ‘Drazen – The Years of the Dragon’ ('Drazen - Godine Zmaja') and 'Bridging the Generations' ('Most Generacija'). He resides in Zagreb, Croatia, currently working on his third book which tells the untold story of the 1989 Green Card Five.

LeBron James & John Salley

John Salley praises LeBron James for calling out the media’s coverage of the Jerry Jones picture - “Everybody wanting to call LeBron a sellout; no, you can’t”

Salley believes that James can no longer be labeled a sellout after he stepped up and voiced his concerns on an issue that not many people are paying attention to

Kristaps Porzingis & Luka Doncic

Kristaps Porzingis opens up about his failed partnership with Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks - “I just wasn’t the right guy”

When asked about his failed stint with the Mavs, Porzingis admitted that he and Luka Doncic were not a strong fit on the court together

New York Knicks center Patrick Ewing

"I'm here and I plan to finish my career here" — when Patrick Ewing left the New York Knicks for the Seattle Supersonics

Patrick Ewing hinted at how things played out with him and the Knicks that prompted him to leave the team in 2000.

michael-jordan-luc-longley-min (1)

Luc Longley on Michael Jordan’s only condition to end the Chicago Bulls’ practice sessions

Luc Longley gave us a peek into Michael Jordan's obsession with competition and winning.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Isaiah Thomas

“You're not given a real chance” — Isaiah Thomas breaks down 10-day contracts in the NBA

Former Boston Celtics All-Star Isaiah Thomas opens up about the reality of 10-day contracts in the NBA.

Charlotte Hornets guard Tony Parker

Almost lifers — stars who played their entire career for a single NBA franchise until their last season

As it turns out, all five guys probably would've been better off just retiring as icons of their original teams.

Miami Heat guard Dwayne Wade

“Being able to stay out to 5AM and still score 40” — Dwyane Wade on his favorite memory from the 2006 Miami Heat

Dwyane Wade still couldn't help but be elated whenever he looked back at his 2006 run with the Miami Heat.

Sacramento Kings guards Mike Bibby and Jason Williams

“They were both awesome in their way for our team” — Ex-Sacramento Kings center Scot Pollard compares Mike Bibby and Jason Williams

Former Sacramento Kings center Scot Pollard was asked to appoint the better point guard between Jason Williams and Mike Bibby.