Jack Twyman died Wednesday at age 78.
Unless you're a hard-core basketball fan, you probably never have heard of Twyman, who graduated from Cincinnati in 1955 as the school's leading career scorer (1,598 points) and rebounder (1,242). He now is ninth in points and second in rebounds.
Twyman averaged 24.6 points and 16.5 rebounds as a senior, when he was named an All-American. Twyman played 11 seasons in the NBA with the Royals' franchise, first in Rochester, N.Y., then in Cincinnati. Twyman was a six-time All-Star and retired in 1966 with career averages of 19.2 points and 6.6 rebounds. He worked as an ABC broadcaster in the 1970s and was inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame in 1983.
But Twyman's true lasting legacy is the incredible compassion he showed for NBA teammate Maurice Stokes.
Stokes played just three seasons in the NBA, but they were glorious. He was a first-round pick, No. 2 overall, out of little St. Francis (Pa.) in 1955, and he was an All-Star in each of his three seasons with the Royals.
Stokes was incredibly strong yet also athletic, and he was a rebounding machine. He averaged 16.7 rebounds per game over his three-year career, to go along with 15.8 points and 5.1 assists.
"Maurice Stokes was Magic Johnson before there was a Magic Johnson," Boston Celtics legend Red Auerbach once said. And former Celtics guard Bob Cousy once told reporters that Stokes was "the first great, athletic power forward. He was Karl Malone with more finesse."
Stokes' career was cut short because of a freak accident during a 1958 regular-season game. Three days after he hit his head on the floor and suffered a concussion, Stokes, then 24, collapsed and was left bedridden with a brain injury. Twyman became Stokes' legal guardian – after Stokes was injured, his contract eventually was voided and he had no insurance – and helped care for Stokes until he died in 1970.
Twyman lobbied heavily for Stokes' induction into the Hall of Fame, and his efforts paid off in 2004. Twyman accepted the honor on Stokes' behalf, saying, "Whatever I've done for Maurice, I've gained tenfold."
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