Legendary 76ers guard Maurice Cheeks entered the Basketball Hall of Fame earlier this week. Cheeks’ contributions on the court are impressive, but his most memorable moment to an entire generation of NBA fans is tied to a brief moment that occurred while he was the head coach of the Trail Blazers.
Portland was set to play Dallas in the 2003 NBA Playoffs, when Natalie Gilbert began to stumble in her rendition of the national anthem. That is when Cheeks took it upon himself to help Gilbert complete her performance.
Cheeks fondly remembers the event, and credited his quick reaction to his instincts as a parent. He spoke with Sporting News’ Sean Deveney about the duet during this week’s festivities in Massachusetts.
“Once I really saw what I did, I couldn’t believe I did it, first of all,” Cheeks told Sporting News. “I had to — I heard the national anthem so many times, so I had to know the words. I didn’t know I was going to have to sing it, but I knew the words and I had to know I could go out there and help her. I just looked and I knew she was struggling.
”I am a father. Everyone can understand that. Once I saw it, I did not want her to be standing in the middle of all those people and not know the words. So I just kind of reacted. I don’t even know why.”
Cheeks had a 162-139 record in his four seasons as the Blazers’ head coach.
You can read Deveney’s full post on Cheeks by visiting Sporting News.