MIAMI - Jack Twyman and Maurice Stokes, whose storied friendship transcended their on-court Hall of Fame accomplishments, will be permanently honored with an annual NBA award in their names that recognizes the ideal teammate, the league announced Sunday.
"What better way to honor the life-long bond that developed between Jack Twyman and Maurice Stokes than by naming this award after them," NBA Commissioner David Stern said. "The Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award recognizes friendship and selflessness among teammates and celebrates the legacy of Jack and Maurice."
NBA players selected Chauncey Billups of the Los Angeles Clippers as the recipient of the inaugural award.
As part of its support for the honor, the NBA will make a $25,000 donation to the charity of Billups' choice. A panel of NBA legends nominated six players from each conference for the award, which recognizes the NBA player deemed the best teammate based on selfless play, on and off-court leadership as a mentor and role model to other NBA players, and his commitment and dedication to his team.
"Chauncey Billups defines what this award was designed to recognize, a player committed to his club, his teammates and his community," Stern said.
Twyman and Stokes were friends and teammates at St. Francis College, and on the Rochester/Cincinnati Royals teams in the NBA?from 1955 to 1958.
In the last game of the 1957-58 regular season, Stokes suffered an on-court injury that led to him falling into a coma days later, leaving him permanently paralyzed. Diagnosed with posttraumatic encephalopathy, a brain injury that damaged his motor-control center, Stokes was supported for the rest of his life by Twyman, who became his legal guardian and advocate.
Twyman helped organize the NBA's Maurice Stokes Memorial Basketball game, held at Kutsher's Hotel and Country Club in Monticello, N.Y., which raised funds for Stokes's medical care.
In 2004, after years of lobbying by Twyman, Stokes was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Twyman, who was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1983, died in 2012.
A biography exploring Stokes' life and his relationship with Twyman will be released later this year. The book, titled "The Rise and Fall and Rise of Maurice Stokes," will be published by St. Johann Press in Haworth, N.J. It is written by Pat Farabaugh, an assistant professor in St. Francis University's communications department. Farabaugh served as the sports information director at St. Francis from 1999 to 2005.