Maurice Stokes (June 17, 1933 – April 6, 1970) was an American professional basketball player in the 1950s for the Cincinnati/Rochester Royals of the National Basketball Association (NBA) until his career — and later his life — was cut short by a debilitating injury. Stokes is a namesake of the NBA's Twyman–Stokes Teammate of the Year Award. Stokes was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.
|Born||June 17, 1933|
|Died||April 6, 1970 (aged 36)|
|Listed height||6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)|
|Listed weight||232 lb (105 kg)|
|College||Saint Francis (PA) (1951–1955)|
|NBA draft||1955 / Round: 1 / Pick: 2nd overall|
|Selected by the Rochester Royals|
|Position||Power forward / Center|
|1955–1958||Rochester / Cincinnati Royals|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Points||3,315 (16.4 ppg)|
|Rebounds||3,492 (17.3 rpg)|
|Assists||1,062 (5.3 apg)|
|Stats at Basketball-Reference.com|
|Basketball Hall of Fame as player|
|College Basketball Hall of Fame|
Inducted in 2006
Stokes was born in Rankin, Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh, one of four children — he had a twin sister and two brothers. His father worked in a steel mill and his mother was a domestic. When Maurice was age 8, the family moved to nearby Homewood, where he later attended Westinghouse High School. Stokes did not start his first two years at Westinghouse, but in his last two years, he helped lead the Bulldogs to back-to-back city championships in 1950 and 1951.
Stokes attended and graduated from Saint Francis College in Loretto, Pennsylvania. There he led the Red Flash to the 1955 National Invitation Tournament and was named Most Valuable Player although his team finished fourth in the tournament. In his first college season, Stokes averaged 23.1 points and 26.5 rebounds per game. In the following season, he averaged 27.1 points and 26.2 rebounds per game. Stokes remains St. Francis' all-time leading rebounder with 1,819 and is second in scoring with 2,282 points. The Red Flash were 79-30 during Stokes' four seasons. He was later inducted in the St. Francis University Athletic Hall of Fame.
Playing for the National Basketball Association's Rochester Royals, which became the Cincinnati Royals in 1957, from 1955 to 1958, Stokes averaged 16.3 rebounds per game during his rookie season and was named NBA Rookie of the Year. The next season, he set a league record for most rebounds in a single season with 1,256 (17.4 per game). Stokes was second in the NBA in rebounds and third in assists in 1957–58; a feat only Wilt Chamberlain has matched for a full season.
During his three seasons in the NBA (1955–58), he grabbed more rebounds than any other player with 3,492 (Bob Pettit was second with 3,417) and also amassed 1,062 assists, which was second in the NBA only to Boston Celtics' point guard Bob Cousy (1,583). Stokes was named an All-Star and All-NBA Second Team for all three seasons of his career. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September 2004.
He is one of eight NBA players who have recorded four consecutive triple-doubles.
Injury and paralysisEdit
On March 12, 1958, in the last game of the regular 1957–58 NBA season, Stokes was knocked unconscious after he drove to the basket, drew contact, and struck his head as he fell to the court. He was revived with smelling salts and returned to the game. Three days later, after recording 12 points and 15 rebounds in an opening-round playoff game against the Detroit Pistons, he became ill on the team's flight back to Cincinnati. Stokes later suffered a seizure and was left permanently paralyzed. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic encephalopathy, a brain injury that damaged his motor-control center.
During the years that followed, Stokes would be supported and cared for by his lifelong friend and teammate, Jack Twyman, who became Stokes' legal guardian. Although permanently paralyzed, Stokes was mentally alert and communicated by blinking his eyes. He adopted a grueling physical therapy regimen that eventually allowed him limited physical movement. Stokes' condition deteriorated through the 1960s and was later transferred to Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati, where Twyman continued to be a regular visitor.
Twelve years after he went into the post-injury coma, he died at age 36 from a heart attack on April 6, 1970. At his own request, he was buried in Franciscan Friar Cemetery on the campus of Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania.
After Jack Twyman became his legal guardian, he organized a charity exhibition basketball game in 1958 to help raise funds for Stokes' medical expenses. That game, spearheaded by Milton Kutsher, became an annual tradition and was named the Maurice Stokes Memorial Basketball Game. It was later changed to the Maurice Stokes/Wilt Chamberlain Celebrity Pro-Am Golf Tournament due to NBA and insurance company restrictions regarding athletes.
NBA Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year AwardEdit
On June 9, 2013, the NBA announced that both Stokes and Jack Twyman would be honored with an annual award in their names, the Twyman–Stokes Teammate of the Year Award, which recognizes the player that embodies the league's ideal teammate that season.
The Maurice Stokes Athletics Center (originally called the Maurice Stokes Physical Education Building when it opened in 1971) on the St. Francis University campus is named after him.
NBA career statisticsEdit
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field goal percentage||3P%||3-point field goal percentage||FT%||Free throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game||Bold||Career high|
|*||Led the league|
- "Maurice Stokes: One of the best players in NBA history". Before Their Time.
- "Author biographies". secureapps.libraries.psu.edu.
- ""An Unbreakable Bond": The Brotherhood of Maurice Stokes and Jack Twyman"". July 13, 2014.
- 2005 Saint Francis University Alumni Directory, page 310.
- "Frankies at Madison Square Garden".
The Stokes Teams were the first two Saint Francis men's basketball teams to play in the National Invitation Tournament, which was then the most prestigious tournament in college basketball, at world-renowned Madison Square Garden. The Stokes Teams put "The College Among The Pines" on the national map with two of the most amazing small-school seasons in collegiate basketball history.
- "Maurice Stokes Stats". Basketball-Reference.com.
- Carter, Bob. "Stokes' life a tale of tragedy and friendship". SportsCentury Biography. ESPN. Retrieved August 17, 2013.
- Curtis, Bryan (August 16, 2013). "The Stokes Game: For decades, legends in the NBA headed up to the Catskill Mountains to do what they knew to help one of their own". Grantland. Retrieved August 17, 2013.
- Jack Twyman, Basketball Hall of Fame Archived June 13, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
- The unfortunate career of Maurice Stokes March 4, 2019
- "Sullivan County Democrat: For All They've Done". www.sc-democrat.com.
- Smaller hole, same goal
- "Chauncey Billups wins NBA's inaugural Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award". sports.yahoo.com.
- Garrison, Drew (June 9, 2013). "Billups wins first Twyman-Stokes award". SBNation.com.
Farabaugh, Pat. An Unbreakable Bond: The Brotherhood of Maurice Stokes and Jack Twyman, Haworth, N.J.: St. Johann Press, 2014.