Maurice Stokes
Personal information
Born(1933-06-17)June 17, 1933
Rankin, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedApril 6, 1970(1970-04-06) (aged 36)
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
Listed height6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)
Listed weight232 lb (105 kg)
Career information
High schoolWestinghouse
(Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
CollegeSaint Francis (PA) (1951–1955)
NBA draft1955: 1st round, 2nd overall pick
Selected by the Rochester Royals
Playing career1955–1958
PositionPower forward / center
Career history
19551958Rochester / Cincinnati Royals
Career highlights and awards
Career statistics
Points3,315 (16.4 ppg)
Rebounds3,492 (17.3 rpg)
Assists1,062 (5.3 apg)
Stats Edit this at Wikidata at
Stats Edit this at Wikidata at
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. He played for the Cincinnati/Rochester Royals of the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1955 to 1958. Stokes was a three-time NBA All-Star, a three-time All-NBA Second Team member and the 1956 NBA Rookie of the Year. His career – and later his life – was cut short by a debilitating brain injury and paralysis.

Stokes is a namesake of the NBA's Twyman–Stokes Teammate of the Year Award alongside Jack Twyman, who served as Stokes' legal guardian during the final years of his life. Stokes was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004.

Early life

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.[1] 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[2][3] in 1950 and 1951.[1]

College career

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.[4][5] 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.[2]

Professional career

Rochester / Cincinnati Royals (1955–1958)

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 for all three seasons of his career. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September 2004.[6]

He is one of eight NBA players who have recorded four consecutive triple-doubles.[citation needed]

Injury and paralysis

On March 12, 1958, in the last game of the 1957–58 NBA regular 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.[7]

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.[8] 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, and he eventually regained limited speaking ability. Stokes' condition deteriorated through the 1960s and he was later transferred to Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati, where Twyman continued to be a regular visitor.[1]


Twelve years after his injury, Stokes died at age 36 from a heart attack on April 6, 1970. He thereafter received a series of Catholic funerals.[9]

At his own request, he was buried in Franciscan Friar Cemetery on the campus of Saint Francis.


After Jack Twyman became his legal guardian, he organized a charity exhibition basketball game in 1958 to help raise funds for Stokes' medical expenses. That game, spearheaded by Milton Kutsher,[7] became an annual tradition and was named the Maurice Stokes Memorial Basketball Game.[8][10] It was later changed to the Maurice Stokes/Wilt Chamberlain Celebrity Pro-Am Golf Tournament[11][12] due to NBA and insurance company restrictions regarding athletes.[13]

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

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.[14][15][16]

The Maurice Stokes Athletics Center

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 career statistics

  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage  3P%  3-point field goal percentage  FT%  Free throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high
 *  Led the league

Regular season

1955–56 Rochester 67 34.7 .354 .714 16.3* 4.7 16.8
1956–57 Rochester 72 38.3 .347 .665 17.4 4.6 15.6
1957–58 Cincinnati 63 39.0 .351 .715 18.1 6.4 16.9
Career 202 37.3 .351 .698 17.3 5.3 16.4
All-Star 3 29.0 .349 .600 14.0 4.0 13.0


1958 Cincinnati 1 39.0 .250 .857 15.0 2.0 12.0
Career 1 39.0 .250 .857 15.0 2.0 12.0

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Maurice Stokes: One of the best players in NBA history". Before Their Time.
  2. ^ a b "Author biographies". Archived from the original on April 18, 2019. Retrieved November 28, 2014.
  3. ^ ""An Unbreakable Bond": The Brotherhood of Maurice Stokes and Jack Twyman"". July 13, 2014. Archived from the original on January 21, 2019. Retrieved January 20, 2019.
  4. ^ 2005 Saint Francis University Alumni Directory, page 310.
  5. ^ "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.
  6. ^ "Maurice Stokes Stats".
  7. ^ a b Carter, Bob. "Stokes' life a tale of tragedy and friendship". SportsCentury Biography. ESPN. Retrieved August 17, 2013.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ "Maurice Stokes funeral arrangements'70". The Daily News. April 7, 1970. p. 14. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
  10. ^ Jack Twyman, Basketball Hall of Fame Archived June 13, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ The unfortunate career of Maurice Stokes March 4, 2019
  12. ^ "Sullivan County Democrat: For All They've Done".
  13. ^ "Smaller hole, same goal". Archived from the original on August 5, 2009. Retrieved July 19, 2007.
  14. ^ "NBA Basketball - News, Scores, Stats, Standings, and Rumors - National Basketball Association". Retrieved February 21, 2021.
  15. ^ "Chauncey Billups wins NBA's inaugural Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award". June 9, 2013.
  16. ^ Garrison, Drew (June 9, 2013). "Billups wins first Twyman-Stokes award".

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