Maurice Stokes

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Maurice Stokes
Personal information
Born (1933-06-17)June 17, 1933
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Died April 6, 1970(1970-04-06) (aged 36)
Cincinnati, Ohio
Nationality American
Listed height 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)
Listed weight 232 lb (105 kg)
Career information
High school Westinghouse High
(Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
College Saint Francis (PA) (1951–1955)
NBA draft 1955 / Round: 1 / Pick: 2nd overall
Selected by the Rochester Royals
Pro career 1955–1958
Position Power forward / Center
Number 12
Career history
19551958 Rochester / Cincinnati Royals
Career highlights and awards
Career statistics
Points 3,315 (16.4 ppg)
Rebounds 3,492 (17.3 rpg)
Assists 1,062 (5.3 apg)
Stats at
Basketball Hall of Fame as player

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 was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 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.[1][2]

NBA career[edit]

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 member three times in his tragically short career. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September 2004.

Injury and illness[edit]

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.[3]

During the years that followed, Stokes would be supported by his lifelong friend and teammate Jack Twyman[4] until his untimely death in 1970.


Twelve years after he went into the post-injury coma, he died at the age of 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.


Jack Twyman organized a charity exhibition basketball game in 1958 to help raise funds for Stokes' medical expenses. That game, spearheaded by Milton Kutsher,[3] became an annual tradition and was named the Maurice Stokes Memorial Basketball Game.[4][5] It was later changed to the Maurice Stokes/Wilt Chamberlain Celebrity Pro-Am Golf Tournament[6][7] due to NBA and insurance company restrictions regarding athletes.[8]

Stokes' life, injury, and relationship with Twyman are all depicted in the 1973 National General Pictures film Maurie.

The Maurice Stokes Athletics Center[edit]

The Maurice Stokes Athletics Center

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 Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award[edit]

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.[9][10][11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 2005 Saint Francis University Alumni Directory, page 310.
  2. ^ "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." 
  3. ^ a b Carter, Bob. "Stokes' life a tale of tragedy and friendship". SportsCentury Biography. ESPN. Retrieved August 17, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b 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. 
  5. ^ Jack Twyman, Basketball Hall of Fame
  6. ^ Twyman¹s empathy for Stokes a lesson for rest of America
  7. ^ Fundraising Efforts Lead to High Honors
  8. ^ Smaller hole, same goal
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^

Farabaugh, Pat. 'An Unbreakable Bond: The Brotherhood of Maurice Stokes and Jack Twyman,' Haworth, N.J.: St. Johann Press, 2014.

External links[edit]