Because He’s Tim Duncan

The most famous athlete in St. Croix was the recipient of the 2014-15 Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award. St. Croix born Tim Duncan was voted by his peers as the best teammate in the league. It is a prestigious award bestowed upon a man only a select few know, the private Tim Duncan, the friend, the teammate, the encourager, the citizen, the one who gives. He earned the award the way you earn most awards that have nothing to do with media interpretation. You do it quietly; character is what you do when no one is paying attention.

Three hundred NBA players, give or take, voted on the 2014-15 Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award. Tim Duncan received 72 first place votes and 1,494 points. Vince Carter came in second with 818 points (28 first place votes) and Elton Brand came in third with 701 points, 21 first place votes.

The NBA will make a $25,000 donation to charities that Tim Duncan supports: My Brother’s Workshop (Virgin Islands), American Cancer Society, Ten Thousand Helpers, St. Croix Interscholastic Athletic Association and St. Croix Foundation. The award will be presented to Tim Duncan by the 2013-14 award winner, Shane Battier, at a Spurs home game this upcoming season.

The Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award was so named because Maurice Stokes suffered a tragedy and Jack Twyman was his lifeline, his oxygen, his laughter, his friend. They were brought together by fate. Both Rochester Royals, they were linked by tragedy and sustained by friendship. None of it was expected.

It evolved because Maurice Stokes was unlucky during the last game in the regular season, in 1958. The All-Star power forward who had been Rookie of the Year for the Rochester Royals, fell and hit his head. He continued playing. A few days later he began vomiting after a playoff game in Detroit. On the team plane he began sweating buckets then started having seizures. He never took a step again. He was permanently paralyzed. He could not speak.

Left financially broken because the Royals terminated his contract of $20,000, Jack Twyman stepped in. He was the Royals brash, self-confident small forward scorer who averaged 30 points in 1959-60. Shooting was his thing and then friendship became his thing. He became Stokes legal guardian and left no stone unturned to make Stokes life not just bearable and manageable but happier with comical and joyous moments and a lot of smiles. The fact that Stokes couldn’t speak only meant that Twyman would interpret what he was trying to say by teaching him to blink his eyes. Twyman transcribed the blinks, which represented letters of the alphabet, on paper; they communicated this way until Stokes began to speak again.

In the offseason, Twyman worked in insurance. He was determined that Stokes bills would be paid and twice a year, in the Catskills, the greatest NBA players played a game to raise money for Maurice Stokes, organized by Jack Twyman. They called it the Stokes Game. Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Wilt Chamberlain all came. Lew Alcindor, Pete Maravich and Len Elmore played to win and this wasn’t an All-Star fascimile but NBA rough and tumble basketball. Red Auerbach was the coach.

After his career was over, Twyman sued the state of Ohio so Stokes could receive workers’ compensation. It was another victory for Stokes. He was financially solvent even though he had to live in the hospital for twelve years.

Maurice Stokes died in 1970, twelve years after the accident. Twyman ended his career in 1966 with 15,840 points. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983. In 2004, he presented his friend Maurice Stokes into the Hall of Fame. Jack Twyman died in 2012 from blood cancer.

The NBA named an award after both men and the first recipient was Chauncey Billups in 2013, followed by Shane Battier in 2014. Because of the history of the men who the award is named after, Tim Duncan, felt a higher sense of honor.

“Gregg Popovich was great at kind of giving me the background and the history of the teammates and what the award truly means. That makes it even more special.”


photo via llananba