Obit of the Day: Twyman and Stokes
Jack Twyman and Maurice Stokes were connected to each pther on and off the basketball court for decades. Both were from Pittsburgh, who, as high school stars, faced each other on the hardwood. In college, both players led their respective teams - Twyman with the University of Cincinnati and Stokes with St. Francis Univeristy - to the semi-finals of the 1955 National Invitation Tournament (NIT). Both teams lost to their opponents but Stokes earned the tournament MVP award.
That spring both Stokes and Twyman were drafted by the Rochester Royals (now the Sacramento Kings). Stokes went number two overall in the first round. Twyman went in the second round. During their rookie season the teammates played in every games and Stokes was named Rookie of the Year.
Stokes, an All-Star every season he played, seemed poised to become a dominant force in the NBA. Then on March 21, 1958 during the final game of their third season together, Stokes went up for a rebound against the Minneapolis Lakers and came down hard, landing on his head. He got up and walked it off. Three days later Maurice Stokes collapsed and fell into a coma. When he woke up he was completely paralyzed.
Jack Twyman knew what he needed to do. Recognizing that Stokes deserved workers’ compensation, Twyman knew that his friend had to remain in Cincinnati to receive it. So Twyman, with the approval of Stokes’ family, became his teammate’s legal guardian. For twelve years Twyman was Stokes’ guardian, friend, and advocate. He taught Stokes to communicate by blinking his eyes for each letter. He raised thousands of dollars for Stokes’ care. He pushed for Stokes’ induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame - an honor bestowed on Stokes posthumously in 2004. (Twyman, of course, gave the induction speech on behalf of his friend.)
Maurice Stokes would die on April 6, 1970 at the age of 36.
Back on the court, Jack Twyman would play for eleven NBA seasons. A six-time All-Star, Twyman became a prolific scorer. During the 1959-1960 season, Twyman averaged 31.4 points per game becoming one of two men to average more than 30 ponts a game for the first time in NBA history. The other was Wilt Chamberlain. Twyman was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1984. Jack Twyman died at the age of 78.
(Image of Twyman, right, and Stokes from 1970 is copyright of the AP and courtesy of DarianWork on photobucket.com. The caption reads: Cincinnati, April 1 - STOKES SUFFERS HEART ATTACK - Maurice Stokes, former NBA star with the Cincinnati Royals, suffered a heart attack in a local hospital and is in the intensive care ward. A hospital spokesman said: “The next seven days will determine the extent of the attack.” Stokes, in 1958, was stricken was [sic] a form of encephalitis from a brain injury apparently suffered when his head struck the floor in a game in Minneapolis. He is shown with former teammate Jack Twyman, his legal guardian, who has sponsored many benefits to help defray Stokes’ hospital bills. Stokes would live for five more days.)