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Sunday, April 01, 2018

Maurice Cheeks, Charlie Scott and Rod Thorn Are Among the Basketball Hall of Fame's Newest Members

In September, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will welcome 13 new members: Ray Allen, Maurice Cheeks, Lefty Driesell, Grant Hill, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Dino Radja, Charlie Scott, Katie Smith, Tina Thompson, Rod Thorn, Ora Mae Washington and Rick Welts. Many media reports state that this class is "headlined" by Allen, Hill, Kidd and Nash--but this article will focus on Cheeks, Scott and Thorn, three individuals who have been eligible for induction for many years but have been overlooked by the Hall until now.

Maurice Cheeks was the starting point guard for the 1983 Philadelphia 76ers, who set a record by going 12-1 in the playoff en route to sweeping the defending champion L.A. Lakers in the NBA Finals. Cheeks also started for the 1980 and 1982 Philadelphia teams that lost to the powerful Lakers in the NBA Finals. He made the All-Star team four times and earned five All-Defensive Team selections (including four First Team honors).

Cheeks never led the league in a statistical category but he was a consistently excellent performer who ranked first in career regular season steals and fifth in career regular season assists when he retired; he now ranks fifth and 13th respectively in those categories, ahead of many players who were inducted in the Hall of Fame before him. Cheeks posted an outstanding .523 career regular season field goal percentage, a testament not only to his shooting ability but also to his judicious shot selection. Cheeks understood when to shoot and when to deliver the ball to fellow Hall of Fame teammates such as Julius Erving, Moses Malone and Charles Barkley.

Cheeks had a Hall of Fame moment as a person during his tenure as Portland's head coach. Prior to a 2003 playoff game, 13 year old Natalie Gilbert froze as she was singing the National Anthem. Cheeks walked over, put his arm around her and helped her finish singing. "It was like a guardian angel had come and put his arm around my shoulder and helped me get through one of the most difficult experiences I've ever had," said Gilbert.

Kidd, arguably the greatest point guard of his era, summed it perfectly upon learning that Cheeks will be joining him in the 2018 Hall of Fame class: "Mo Cheeks is who we all wanted to be."

Charlie Scott was the University of North Carolina's first black scholarship athlete. Scott made the All-America Team twice and he twice led the Tar Heels to the Final Four. He won Olympic gold with Team USA in 1968. Scott was drafted by the NBA's Boston Celtics but he signed with the ABA's Virginia Squires, winning the 1971 Rookie of the Year award after averaging 27.1 ppg. Scott also finished third in MVP balloting behind Hall of Famers Mel Daniels and Zelmo Beaty. The next season, rookie Julius Erving joined the Squires and Scott led the ABA in scoring (34.6 ppg) before leaving the Squires to jump to the NBA just before the playoffs. Scott joined the Phoenix Suns and the Suns sent Paul Silas to the Celtics as compensation since the Celtics owned Scott's NBA rights.
Scott spent three seasons with the Suns before being traded to the Boston Celtics for Paul Westphal in 1975. Scott played a key role for Boston's 1976 NBA championship team. His Hall of Fame selection is well deserved based on his outstanding amateur career in college/the Olympics, plus his high performance level as a pro in the ABA and NBA.

Rod Thorn was selected to the Hall of Fame as a Contributor after a long and successful basketball career during which he filled many roles, including player, coach, executive and league administrator. Thorn was an All-America performer at West Virginia before being selected second overall by the Baltimore Bullets in the 1963 NBA draft. He had a solid NBA playing career before becoming an assistant coach on Kevin Loughery's staff with the ABA's New York Nets, who won the 1974 ABA title largely thanks to Erving's spectacular all-around play. Thorn later became the Chicago Bulls' General Manager. He drafted Michael Jordan in 1984. From 1986-2000, Thorn served as the NBA's Executive Vice President of Operations. Thorn rejoined the Nets in 2000 and was selected as the NBA's Executive of the Year in 2002 after building the team into a championship contender.

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posted by David Friedman @ 1:24 PM

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