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OKC Thunder: Maurice Cheeks a Hall of Fame finalist again

MAURICE CHEEKS — Naismith Hall of Fame voters will debate the former Philadelphia 76ers guard's credentials again. To Thunder coach Scott Brooks there is no debate.
By JOHN ROHDE, Staff Writer, Published: March 6, 2012

When Thunder assistant coach Maurice Cheeks retired in 1993, he was the NBA's all-time leader in steals and was fifth all-time in assists.

He had been selected to four All-Star Games, won a world championship, advanced to three NBA Finals and was a five-time member of the all-defensive team.

"That's a hall-of-fame career," said Cheeks' boss, Thunder coach Scott Brooks.

Not in the eyes of voters. Not yet, at least.

For the second straight year, Cheeks has been named a finalist for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Finalists must receive 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee to earn induction. The 2012 class will be named on April 2 at the Final Four in New Orleans, with enshrinement Sept. 7 in Springfield, Mass.

Cheeks received a thunderous ovation Feb. 29 in Philadelphia when a video tribute to him was played during a timeout. Cheeks was also recognized Monday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena during the first timeout of the Thunder's 95-91 victory over Dallas.

Brooks and others have expressed shock Cheeks has yet to be inducted.

"He should be in, no disrespect to the voters," Brooks said. "He's a Hall of Famer in my mind, in many people's minds."

Cheeks said he does not look at his outsider status as an injustice, however.

"No, you can't look at it that way. Any time you have an opportunity to get into a hall of fame, from my standpoint, it's an honor," said Cheeks, who was chosen for the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame in 2008. "I mean, come on. How many people get to play this game for so many years with so many great players? To have a chance to get in is special. Obviously, to actually get in is more special."

This state was the birthplace of former NBA standouts Alvan Adams, Mark Price and the late Wayman Tisdale, but the 55-year-old Cheeks has become the resident NBA statesman in Oklahoma.

"Oh, that's not good, if I'm in the statesman," Cheeks said with a laugh. "I'm the elder statesman. You didn't want to say it, but I'm the oldest guy. Right now, I'm benefitting being with an organization like Oklahoma City that's moving up the ladder in terms of the way they play and the way they carry themselves. Even though I've been in this league a long time, I'm still learning a lot about this league."

A product of West Texas A&M in Canyon, Texas, Cheeks admitted he had no idea how he would make the roster after the Philadelphia 76ers picked him 36th overall in the 1978 NBA Draft.

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