|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)|
|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, whose career (and later his life) was cut short by a debilitating injury. He was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Saint Francis University in Pennsylvania in 1955 after helping to take the Red Flash team to Madison Square Garden for the National Invitation Tournament.12
Playing for the National Basketball Association's Rochester Royals (which became the Cincinnati Royals in 1957) from 1955 to 1958, Stokes grabbed 38 rebounds in a single game during his rookie season, averaged 16.3 rebounds per game overall, 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). He played in the All-Star Game all three seasons of his tragically short career, and was named to the All-NBA second team three times. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a player in September 2004.
On March 12, 1958, in the last game of the regular 1957–58 NBA season, in Minneapolis, Stokes drove to the basket, drew contact, fell to the floor, struck his head and lost consciousness. He was revived with smelling salts and returned to the game. Three days later, after a 12-point, 15-rebound performance in an opening-round playoff game at Detroit against the Pistons, he became ill on the team's flight back to Cincinnati; "I feel like I'm going to die," he told a teammate. He later suffered a seizure, fell into a coma and was left permanently paralyzed. In the end, he was diagnosed with posttraumatic encephalopathy, a brain injury that damaged his motor-control center."3
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 postinjury coma, he died at only 36 in Cincinnati of a heart attack on April 6, 1970. At his own request, he was buried in a cemetery on the campus of Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania.
Twyman helped Stokes after his stroke by organizing an exhibition doubleheader in 1958 that raised $10,000 to help pay Stokes' expenses. That game became an annual tradition, spearheaded by Milton Kutsher3 and held at Kutsher's Hotel in Monticello, New York or at the Kutsher's Sports Academy camp. It was simply called The Maurice Stokes Game, and included many of the NBA players.45 The annual event was later changed from a basketball game to the Maurice Stokes/Wilt Chamberlain Celebrity Pro-Am Golf Tournament,67 per NBA and insurance company restrictions regarding the athletes.8 Stokes' life, his injury and his relationship with Twyman are all depicted in the 1973 National General Pictures film Maurie.
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.91011
The Maurice Stokes Athletics Center on the St. Francis University campus, a multipurpose arena originally called the Maurice Stokes Physical Education Building when it opened in 1971, is named after him.
- 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
- College statistics
- ESPN's Biography of Maurice Stokes: Stokes' life a tale of tragedy and friendship
- Maurice Stokes at Find a Grave