Posts Tagged ‘Jack Twyman’

Why Battier’s ‘Teammate’ award matters


Maurice Stokes (right) of the Cincinnati Royals talks over a few things with teammate Jack Twyman while resting in the hospital in 1958.

Maurice Stokes (right) of the Cincinnati Royals talks over a few things with teammate Jack Twyman while resting in the hospital in 1958.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.”

Billups Is Inaugural Winner of Twyman/Stokes Teammate Award

MIAMI – Awards in whatever walk of life typically honor the latest recipients, and if they happen to be named after someone, there occasionally can be some head-scratching and quizzical looks as to who that was and what exactly they did to get a trophy named after them.

A bunch of hockey players, for instance, are grinding out a championship series over the next two weeks for a silver cup named for … Lord Stanley? And the NBA surely gets it that while everyone knows what an MVP is, not everyone knows that Maurice Podoloff – for whom the trophy is named – was the league’s first commissioner.

The Twyman/Stokes Teammate of the Year Award is going to be different, if the league and the players who win it have anything to say about it.

The new postseason award – won for 2012-13 by Los Angeles Clippers guard Chauncey Billups – was created precisely to keep the names Jack Twyman and Maurice Stokes alive as symbols of sportsmanship, selflessness and other traits associated with not-just-good-but-great teammates.

Their story – Twyman becoming legal guardian and advocate for Stokes after his Cincinnati Royals teammate suffered a paralyzing brain injury in 1958, helping with his medical costs, sticking by his friend – is one that resonated throughout the league long after Stokes’ death in 1970 at age 36, and even more so after Twyman’s passing in 2012.

“The relationship shared by Jack and Maurice is as profound an illustration of compassionate and unconditional fellowship between two teammates that the NBA has ever seen,” NBA commissioner David Stern said at the presentation ceremony an hour before Game 2 of The Finals Sunday.

“We will get the opportunity to retell the story of Maurice Stokes and Jack Twyman on each occasion of the award’s being given.”

Billups, a 16-year veteran, directed some of his remarks upon accepting the award to son Jay Twyman and other members of Twyman’s family who attended the event at AmericanAirlines Arena. “I think even older players like myself to the younger guys need to know the story,” he said. “The story is the most unbelievable story I’ve ever heard in sports. And I’m just glad that my name could be mentioned alongside Mr. Twyman.”

At 36, having played for seven different NBA franchises, one could say that Billups was on the campaign trail without ever knowing about it. He was chosen in a vote of all NBA players from a ballot of 12 nominees, six from each conference selected by a panel of NBA Legends. The criteria: 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. Or in his case, teams.

Other finalists included Jerry Stackhouse (Brooklyn Nets), Luke Walton (Cleveland Cavaliers), Andre Iguodala (Denver Nuggets), Jarrett Jack (Golden State Warriors), Roy Hibbert (Indiana Pacers), Shane Battier (Miami Heat), Roger Mason, Jr. (New Orleans Hornets), Jason Kidd (New York Knicks), Serge Ibaka (Oklahoma City Thunder), Manu Ginobili (San Antonio Spurs), and Emeka Okafor (Washington Wizards).

A point system was used — 10 points for a first-place vote, seven for second, five for third, three for fourth and one for fifth. Players were not allowed to vote for a player on their own team.

That last part might seem odd for a “teammate” award, but Billups – whose leadership was key to the Detroit Pistons’ 2004 NBA championship – is known throughout the players’ community as a solid citizen, generous with his time and more.

Noting that he never has had to sacrifice for a teammate the way Twyman did in caring for Stokes, Billups said: “I had to help a few teammates through some really, really tough family situations in a few different ways. … I never thought twice about it because I knew they needed it, and they respected me enough and looked up to me enough to ask me.”

The Real Greatness of Jack Twyman

HANG TIME WEST – I have a new regret. I never met Jack Twyman.

Knew about the career of 11 seasons and six All-Star appearances while representing the Rochester and Cincinnati Royals, culminating in his 1983 induction into the Hall of Fame. Knew about the friendship with Maurice Stokes and how friendship does not do Twyman justice. But not until Twyman died Wednesday at age 78 of complications from blood cancer and the stories were told by many who knew him best did the real magnitude of his life come through.

Stokes and Twyman were Cincinnati teammates when, in the last game of the 1957-58 season, Stokes hit his head on the court in Minneapolis. He later had a seizure, slipped into a coma and was permanently paralyzed.

Twyman, 11 months younger, eventually became Stokes’ legal guardian and remained a teammate of another kind until the end. For 12 years, he helped Stokes learn to adjust to his new life, organized exhibition games with NBA peers to raise money for Stokes and later for other needy ex-players, and came to define friendship until Stokes died in 1970.

Paul Newberry of the Associated Press had it right in in his moving tribute following Twyman’s passing:

Twyman ignored the ugly racial times that were the 1950s and ‘60s to dole out perhaps the greatest assist in NBA history.

He stood up when many wouldn’t, becoming the legal guardian and the best of friends to Maurice Stokes when his stricken African-American teammate needed him most.

It’s a life everyone should know about.

It’s a story worth telling again and again.

“Maybe this is a little learning opportunity for everyone who plays professional sports,” Newberry quoted John Doleva, the president of the Hall of Fame, as saying. “Jack didn’t look for accolades. It was just the right thing to do. That’s what made him a very, very special man.” We all know that a lot more now.

Former NBA Star Woolridge Dead At 52

HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS — Former Chicago Bulls star and 13-year NBA veteran Orlando Wooldridge died at his parents’  Louisiana home Thursday night, according to the Shreveport Times, the second blow to the league’s retired ranks this week.

Former NBA All-Star and broadcaster Jack Twyman died Wednesday.

Woolridge, 52, was reportedly under hospice care for a heart condition. A college star at Notre Dame and the sixth pick in the 1981 NBA Draft, Woolridge played six seasons for the Bulls, including averaging 22.9 points per game during Michael Jordan‘s rookie season.

He was a fan favorite in Chicago and beyond for his above-the-rim work, vicious dunks were one of his specialties. Suspended in 1987 for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, Woolridge finished with career averages of 16 points and 4.3 rebounds, playing for the Lakers, Nuggets, Pistons, Bucks and Sixers. He also spent time overseas and coached in the WNBA and the ABA after his playing career ended.

A 6-foot-9, 215-pound physical specimen with elite athleticism, Woolridge actually experienced some of his best years in the league as a role player with the Lakers under Pat Riley and on the receiving end of some of Magic Johnson‘s  passes.

That’s actually where I remember him best, though I remember him well from his days with the Bulls. He just seemed like a perfect fit with those Showtime Lakers, who never met an athletic finisher they didn’t like.

We dug through the archives for a glimpse of Woolridge in his prime (above), just in case you didn’t have the pleasure of watching him while he played.

Heat In Historic Big 3 Company

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We can stop worrying about the Miami Heat’s Big 3 and whether they are ready to take their game to another level for the postseason.

They’re already there, in fact, playing and existing on a higher level than the average Big 3.

The Heat’s dynamic trio joined historic company Sunday, with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh each finishing with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in a win over a surging Houston team for their fifth straight win and eight in nine games. They also snapped the Rockets’ winning streak at five games.

They became only the second trio of teammates to accomplish that feat in regulation time, joining Oscar Robertson, Wayne Embry and Jack Twyman, who did it in 1961 as members of the Cincinnati Royals.

“That was one of the things we talked about when we came together was making history,” Bosh said told the Miami Herald. “People kind of thought we were crazy a little bit, but to be great I think sometimes you have to have crazy thoughts … That is awesome. It’s mind blowing. That’s crazy. Hopefully one day, 50 years from now, someone else will do it and say, “Hey, that was the other, other, other Big 3.'”

It’s hard to compare the feats since all we have to go on for the 1961 crew’s feat is the written accounts of what went down (no one here at the hideout was even born for another decade or so). (more…)