Friday, 22 June 2012


The friendship between Jack Twyman and Maurice Stokes, which prompted Twyman to look after his paralysed teammate, is one of the greatest stories in sports. My obit of Jack Twyman is in today's Indy, you can link to it here.

All that was cut from it was some of the basketball detail. Stokes scored 32 points in his very first NBA game, and averaged 16.8 points and 16.3 rebounds in his rookie season, winning the Rookie of the Year award, and making second-team all-NBA, which he would do for each of his three seasons. Twyman averaged 14 points as a rookie, and that would improve to 17ppg in his third year. I pointed out that while Twyman was part of a long continuum of 'white small forwards'--include Cliff Hagan, Jack Marin, Billy Cunningham, Larry Bird, and Dirk Nowitski in that, among others--Stokes was unique in his time. His game was more complete even than someone like Charles Barkley, and he was taller than Barkley as well.

The key bit cut had to do with Stokes' membership on the all-time NBA 'what-if' team. As I wrote, without Stokes, Twyman's scoring 'average went from 17 to 26 points per game the next year, along with 9 rebounds, and in 1959-60 he and Chamberlain became the first players to average over 30 points per game (31.2, along with 8.9 rebounds). After the 1960 Olympics, another Cincinnati University star, Oscar Robertson, joined the Royals; one of the great what-ifs of NBA history is imagining how Stokes,Twyman, and Oscar would have played together. Those Royals also had Wayne Embry, and might have been contenders for years. The rest of the all-time what if team is Bill Walton, Connie Hawkins, David Thompson, and Pete Maravich. That's injury, scandal, drugs, and drugs n all kinds of other shit.

I've never seen the film Maurie, but like Bang The Drum Slowly, it suffered from coming after Brian's Song, and unlike Bang The Drum, a film starring Bo Swenson and Bernie Casey was not aimed at being an A feature. But I think the true story of Twyman and Stokes rivals the fictional one of Bruce Pearson and Henry Wiggin in that baseball novel and film. As I said, it's one of the great sports stories of all time, and because of it, I have always admired Jack Twyman.

1 comment :

Kieran said...

Fascinating story Mike. Thanks for sharing.