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19 Years Ago: Maurice Cheeks Assists National Anthem Singer

Trail Blazers v 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

After trailing 2-0 to the Dallas Mavericks, the 2002-03 Portland Trail Blazers were looking to grab a game back in the playoff series at the Rose Garden.

Before the game began, 13-year-old Natalie Gilbert opened festivities with the national anthem.

However, Gilbert began to feel the nerves singing in a sold-out arena and fumbled the words.

Have no fear! Maurice Cheeks to the rescue!

Cheeks, the Blazers coach at the time, joined Gilbert minutes before an extremely important playoff game to help her regain the words and finish the song in front of a supportive Blazers crowd.

The moment was one of the most humanizing of the season and added some warm and fuzzy feelings for a “Jail Blazers” team that was often defined by opposite emotions.

And it all happened 19 years ago today.

To this day, this is one of Cheeks’ defining moments as the head coach of the Blazers and this random act of kindness has been a notable point in his career.

The gesture probably kept him in town a little longer as the organization didn’t want more negative publicity surrounding the team.

Ultimately, Cheeks was unsuccessful in his first go as a head coach, but got an opportunity with four seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers and one with the Detroit Pistons. Cheeks never won a playoff series with either team but is largely known as one of the most respected assistants in the league, now currently with the Chicago Bulls.

Rip City, what do you remember most about Mo Cheeks? Feel free to keep the conversation going in the comments.