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YouTube Gold: Maurice Stokes

Perhaps the saddest story in the NBA, but one with a beautiful silver lining in Jack Twyman

Maurice Stokes Smiling in Wheelchair
Maurice Stokes smiling in a wheelchair

Maurice Stokes was a freakishly good player in the early days of the NBA but his career only lasted three years.

In one of the greatest tragedies in NBA history, Stokes hit the floor in the final regular season game of his third season and passed out. Things seemed fine but after his only career playoff game, against Detroit, he told his teammates he felt extremely sick. Then he had a seizure and was permanently paralyzed. He was later diagnosed with post-traumatic encephalopathy.

It was a brutal career-ending injury for the talented Stokes. Keep in mind that in that era, not only were salaries limited - JJ Redick was partly correct when he said that early NBA players were “plumbers,” but it was more out of economic necessity - but they also didn't have a pension.

But his teammate, Jack Twyman, took responsibility for him, even becoming his legal guardian.

There was an annual Maurice Stokes game through the 1960’s, and the biggest names in the game played. Everyone stepped up to help in one way or another.

Sadly, Stokes died of a heart attack in 1970, but his greatness endures.