If you've been watching sports for a certain period of time, you've certainly heard a lot of cliches about teammates becoming like family. While it's easy to erase them as insincere – there is a difference between working together and becoming truly friends – some NBA players really form a bond. As an example, it is not necessary to look beyond Maurice Stokes and Jack Twyman.
In March 1958, Stokes suffered a serious injury, ending his career in the NBA. That terrible moment, however, laid the foundations for a moving act of camaraderie and friendship.
Maurice Stokes seemed ready for NBA stardom
RELATED: The 15 Best College Basketball Schools in the Country
These days, Maurice Stokes' name has been largely lost in the annals of NBA history. During his playing career, however, the big man seemed ready for basketball stardom.
As documented in an ESPN Classic biography, Stokes first hit hardwood at Westinghouse High School; after winning back-to-back titles, he headed to St. Francis University in Pennsylvania. While Red Flash may not be a traditional feeding program, that reality hasn't slowed young people forward.
Stokes spent only two seasons on the varsity team, but that didn't stop him from making an impact. During his first collegiate campaign, he averaged 23.1 points and 26.5 rebounds per game; as an elder, he scored 27.1 points and knocked down 26.2 rebounds per game.
When the 1955 NBA draft turned, the Rochester Royals selected Stokes with the second overall choice. The improvement in quality did not affect his performance, as he achieved the Rookie of the Year title with an average of 16.8 points, 16.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists per night. "The first major athletic power forward," explained Bob Cousy, according to ESPN. "It was Karl Malone with more finesse."
A tragic injury ended a promising career
In the NBA, Maurice Stokes seemed ready for stardom. A tragic injury, however, would change this path.
On March 12, 1958, Stokes made his way to the trash can and crashed awkwardly onto the floor; he was eliminated but, with the help of some scented salts, he is back in the game. His problems were just beginning, though.
A few days later, the big man started to feel bad. "On the return flight to Cincinnati, Stokes looked sick and supposedly observed to a teammate," I feel like I'm going to die, "MinnPost said." He lost consciousness and, when the plane landed, he was rushed to a hospital in Covington, Ky. He was in a coma for weeks. "
Doctors initially diagnosed Stokes' encephalitis, but eventually determined that he had post-traumatic encephalopathy. Before his tragic fall, the attacker was a dominant athlete, destined for NBA celebrity; now, he had been paralyzed, unable to speak and faced with mountains of medical bills.
Jack Twyman rose when Maurice Stokes needed him most
RELATED: Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant would have been terrible teammates
After his tragic fall, Maurice Stokes' life has changed forever. Fortunately, his teammate, Jack Twyman, was there to provide invaluable help.
“The Royals have been obscenely quick to remove Maurice and his $ 20,000 salary from their payroll. At the time, there were no retirement or medical plans for NBA players, which left Stokes and his family unable to bear medical bills that would approach $ 100,000 a year, "explained Curtis Harris for ESPN. Twyman, however, would not abandon his hit teammate.
"Twyman has become the legal guardian of his teammate and has undertaken all kinds of fundraising efforts to round up the money and save Maurice," continued Harris. “An NBA All-Stars charity game was played every year in New York to raise funds. Twyman, who worked for an insurance company during the offseason, successfully sued under Ohio law for worker compensation in Stokes. "
While Stokes died in 1970, his life – and Twyman's friendship – was not forgotten. Years later, Twyman introduced his late teammate to the Basketball Hall of Fame and, in 2013, the NBA awarded the first Twyman – Stokes Teammate of the Year Award, commemorating the two men 's bond.
Statistics courtesy of Sports-Reference and Basketball-Reference