|Power forward / Center|
June 17, 1933|
|Died||April 6, 1970
|Listed height||6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)|
|Listed weight||232 lb (105 kg)|
|High school||Westinghouse High
|College||Saint Francis (PA) (1951–1955)|
|NBA draft||1955 / Round: 1 / Pick: 2nd overall|
|Selected by the Rochester Royals|
|Pro playing career||1955–1958|
|1955–1958||Rochester / Cincinnati Royals|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NBA statistics|
|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|
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.
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). During his three seasons in the NBA (1955-58), Stokes grabbed more rebounds than any other player in the league with 3,492 (Bob Pettit was second with 3,417). He also amassed 1,062 assists during that same span, 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
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.
The tragedy greatly shook the team. Stokes, a tremendous talent who could play center, forward or even guard, 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. Without their best player the Royals nearly folded, but recovered after drafting superstar point guard Oscar Robertson two years later.
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, 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.
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
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.
- List of National Basketball Association season rebounding leaders
- List of NCAA Division I men's basketball players with 30 or more rebounds in a game
- 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."
- 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
- Twyman¹s empathy for Stokes a lesson for rest of America
- Fundraising Efforts Lead to High Honors
- Smaller hole, same goal
Farabaugh, Pat. 'An Unbreakable Bond: The Brotherhood of Maurice Stokes and Jack Twyman,' Haworth, N.J.: St. Johann Press, 2014.
- College statistics
- ESPN's Biography of Maurice Stokes: Stokes' life a tale of tragedy and friendship
- Maurice Stokes at Find a Grave