MIAMI – It has sort of a Miss Congeniality vibe to it, the NBA’s Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award that was presented to Miami Heat forward Shane Battier on Saturday.
Except for two things:
- The men after whom the award is named, Jack Twyman and Maurice Stokes, lend a gravity to the honor that should not be taken lightly.
- The voting actually couldn’t be more different. That is, the players who spend the most time around the winner and know him best can’t actually vote for him … unlike those, y’know, pageants.
That’s a quirk of the process, which prohibits NBA players from voting for a current teammate as Teammate of the Year. But it might actually lend credibility to the award, rather than reducing it to a popularity contest.
“The beauty of it is I’m a 13‑year veteran, 35 years old,” Battier said, teasing. “I’ve probably played with 250 of the current players that are in the league. But for guys that don’t know me, who only played against me, to look at me and say, ‘You know what, he looks like he’d be a great teammate,’ that means a lot to me.”
Like the inaugural TMOY winner last year, Chauncey Billups, Battier has been around for a while and played for multiple teams (Memphis, Houston, Miami). That means exposure to a lot of players who aren’t on the Heat roster and therefore can vote for him.
Of the top five finishers in this year’s balloting, only Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki, who finished third, has spent his entire career with one team. Then again, the Mavericks have had a revolving door recently, so some of Nowitzki’s teammates have moved on, their eligibility to vote for him restored.
In the point system used to determine the winner, Battier finished with 1,322 points and 67 first-place votes. Charlotte’s Al Jefferson was second (798 points, 29 firsts), followed by Nowitzki (784, 28), L.A. Clippers guard Chris Paul (754, 40) and L.A. Lakers forward Pau Gasol (753, 36).
As for the first reason the TMOY award means something, Battier wanted everyone to know the tale of Twyman and Stokes, teammates on the Rochester/Cincinnati Royals from 1955 to 1958. Stokes suffered an on-court injury that caused him to lapse into a coma days later, with resulting brain damage that left him permanently paralyzed. Twyman became his legal guardian and supported Stokes – who died at age 36 in 1970 – for the rest of his life.
Twyman, who died in 2012, was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1983, but he spent years lobbying for Stokes, whose remarkable skills were evident before his career was cut short. In 2004, Stokes also was enshrined.
“If you don’t know the story about Maurice Stokes and Jack Twyman, it’s an amazing story of brotherhood and being the ultimate teammate,” Battier said. “The award represents so much. It’s really a huge honor. It means a lot to me because I’ve tried to be a good teammate my entire life.”