Hats off to Mo Cheeks

Apr 302003
Authors: Jason Graziadei

If I were a betting man, I’d bet you missed the best moment from the sports world over the weekend. It wasn’t Kevin Millwood’s no-hitter or Paul Pierce’s performance against the Pacers.

In fact, it wasn’t even performed by an athlete.

It was an act of kindness by a guy named Maurice Cheeks, believe it or not, and it may have been the most compassionate moment in recent sports history.

For those of you who missed out, it happened before the tip-off of the Portland Blazers-Dallas Mavericks playoff game. Thirteen-year-old Natalie Gilbert, the winner of a Portland-area contest in which the winner got to sing the National Anthem before the game, stepped up in front of a packed arena to begin “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

She began flawlessly and appeared to be a great choice to sing the anthem. But then, judging from the look on her face, the world came crashing down around her.

She forgot the words.

As she stood trying to regain her composure and remember the elusive lyrics, the crowd began to bubble over with jeers and laughter. She looked as if she was about to lose it. And just when it looked like the moment was about to get too uncomfortable, the head coach of the Blazers calmly walked over to Gilbert, put his arm around her and began to lead her through the song.

Mo Cheeks, a former NBA player and candidate for Coach of the Year, stood by her for every last word until the song was finished. When they were done, Gilbert looked up at him and nobody had to ask what she said.

“Thank you.”

Talk about a breath of fresh air. I hadn’t known a lot about Cheeks before this weekend, but now everyone knows he is a class act. How many people could actually say they would do the same thing if they were in Cheeks’ place?

While the fans and players chuckled, Cheeks took it upon himself to come to the rescue of this girl. I know I wouldn’t have had the courage to do that. Most people don’t.

But watching the scene just made you feel good all over, and happy that there are people out there like Mo Cheeks.

It’s a shame we don’t see more of this type of act in a league that has become known for its thug mentality, with players fathering children out of wedlock, doing drugs and getting shot at.

Cheeks is the antithesis to everything I hate about the NBA. It is even more ironic that he is the coach of a team that has had the most legal problems in the entire NBA! He’s lucky if he gets all his players sober by game time.

It’s too bad a little Mo doesn’t rub off on them.

Jason is a senior journalism major.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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