Billups wins first Teammate of the Year Award
by Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY Sports
MIAMI — Maurice Stokes was nearing the end of his third NBA season in 1958 and posting statistics that had him on a Hall of Fame path.
But one play in the final game of the 1957-58 altered the lives of Stokes and his Cincinnati Royals teammate Jack Twyman. Stokes hit his head on the floor and three days later fell into a coma and was permanently paralyzed.
Stokes, who was black, had limited financial resources and a small family, so Twyman, who was white, became his legal guardian and made sure Stokes’ expensive medical bills were paid, establishing a charity basketball game that raised enough money. It was unique friendship that lasted until Stokes died in 1970 at 36 years old. When Twyman died on May 30, 2012, the NBA wanted to make sure the uplifting story of the kindness and spirit did not disappear.
The NBA announced the creation of the Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award on Sunday and named veteran Chauncey Billups the first recipient. The trophy depicts Twyman reaching out a hand to help Stokes get back on his feet. Twyman is holding a basketball and both are wearing basketball uniforms.
“The relationship shared by Jack and Maurice is as profound an illustration of compassionate and unconditional fellowship between two teammates that the NBA has ever seen,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said. “What better way to honor the life-long bond that developed between them by establishing an award in their honor that recognizes friendship and selflessness among teammates.”
Member’s of Twyman’s family — son Jay and daughters Lisa, Julue and Michele — were in attendance.
“This story is the most unbelievable story I’ve ever heard in sports,” Billups said. “I’m just glad my name could be mentioned alongside Mr. Twyman’s. … As I began to read through it and follow it and do a little due diligence, it is very touching.
“I can only imagine the sacrifice that he made at a very young age to bring in a guy who was probably his competitor and especially in that day and age when the racial division was so prevalent.”
Stokes, a 6-7, 235-pound … [For more on Chauncey Billups wins first Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award, click here.]