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 fell to the ground on his head. 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. After, 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 by his lifelong friend and teammate Jack Twyman until his untimely death in 1970.
Jack Twyman 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.
^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."