June 17, 1933|
|Died||April 6, 1970
|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
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 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.
Before coming into the BAA and the NBA, Maurice was touted as the all-around glue guy, doing whatever it takes to win, pass, rebound, defend, score. 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.
He is one of five NBA players who have recorded 4 consecutive triple-doubles.
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 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. He spent three years typing his own autobiography, which was never published. He never missed voting, even for local elections. Stokes' condition deteriorated through the 1960s. He 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.
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 annual rebounding leaders
- List of National Basketball Association single-game 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 Archived 2006-06-13 at the Wayback Machine.
- Twyman¹s empathy for Stokes a lesson for rest of America[permanent dead link]
- 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.