Stats: 12.2 PTS, 7.3 AST, 3.0 REB, 2.3 STL per game, 52.8% FG
Accolades: 4-time NBA all-star, 4-time NBA All-Defensive 1st team (1-time 2nd), 1983 NBA Championship Team Member
Most of these players have a team or era that I’ve identified them as being in. Bobby Jones played a critical role on the 1982-83 title team. George Lynch played a key role on the 2001 finals team. Ron Anderson was the off-the-bench dynamo that gave Charles Barkley a break. Andre Iguodala was the lead guy on a string of sometimes successful late 2000s teams.
Mo Cheeks is unique in that he really played major role on two of these teams – Barkley’s most competitive Sixers and the 1982-83 champion team. And he played a key part in both teams. Not to mention he coached another team to mild success.
Mo’s playing days, to me, can be described as rock-solid. He never averaged even 16 points per game on average. He never topped 9.2 assists per game. But he was consistent. In every year as a Sixer, besides his rookie season, he averaged at least 6.4 assists. He never shot less than 48%. The most games he missed in any season was 14. He never averaged 3 turnovers per game.
But his consistency added up to impressive totals over time. He’s third in team history in games played, 5th in minutes played. He’s 8th in points. He leads the franchise in assists (but only 4th in turnovers) and steals, and there isn’t anybody who will break those records any time soon.
And he also had some impressive rate numbers as well. Cheeks leads the franchise in assists per game, at over 7. He is 2nd, hundredths of a point behind Allen Iverson, in steals per game. He’s fifth in field goal percentage.
His statistics, though far from describing his play style or effects on teammates, show how much he contributed. Four all-star games and four all-defensive team awards show that his peers and the media respected his play and his impact. Truly, having to run the show for Charles Barkley and Moses and Andrew Toney and Hersey Hawkins and Darryl Dawkins and Doctor J is not easy. Nor does it demand the same style of play. He averaged fewer points and held fewer responsibilities with his early teams. As he became more experienced, his surrounding cast relied more upon him to pick up the load. And he did – in his final three all-star years, he played more minutes on average, even leading the league in minutes played in 85-86. With playing more minutes, he averaged career highs in points and assists per game.
Mo Cheeks may never make it into the hall of fame. And I’d be okay with that. However, we have to recognize and acknowledge that he made several hall of famers much, much better basketball players. With a ring on his finger and many “thank you”s from his former teammates, Mo enters my list at number 5.