By Ken Reed

The tendency today among sports skeptics (yes, I often qualify) is to denigrate everyone and everything in sports, especially the highly commercialized big-time college and pro sports. It’s not fair. There are some outstanding people in sports, from the little leagues to the big leagues. There always have been and there always will be.

One of the best — on the basketball court and off — died recently. His name was Jack Twyman. Twyman was a very good — not great — but very good basketball player. He was a six-time NBA All-Star during his 11-year career, spanning the late 50’s and 60’s. But he’s remembered as much for his humanity and the compassion he showed a fallen teammate, as he is for any of his basketball exploits.

Twyman’s Cincinnati Royals teammate, Maurice Stokes, suffered a paralyzing brain injury in the final regular season game of the 1958 season. Stokes was nearly destitute and Twyman became his legal guardian. He raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Stokes to pay for medical care, and helped him to communicate by blinking his eyes for each of the letters in the alphabet. Twyman and his wife Carole became co-trustees of the Maurice Stokes Foundation, which was initially set up to defray Stokes’ medical costs but which became a foundation to help other needy NBA veterans as well.

“Maurice was on his own,” said Twyman about Stokes’ predicament after his injury. “Something had to be done and someone had to do it. I was the only one there so I became that someone.”

As AOL/Sporting News columnist David Whitley wrote, “A 23-year-old white guy basically adopted a paralyzed 24-year-old black man.”

Years after his tragic injury, when Stokes had recovered enough finger flexibility to type, his first message was: “Dear Jack, How can I ever thank you?”

Stokes died in 1970. At the time, columnist Arthur Daley of The New York Times wrote about the “nobility and grandeur” in Twyman’s actions, likening him to the biblical good Samaritan.

Whitley called Jack Twyman the best teammate in the history of the NBA. It’s hard to argue with that.

The Twyman-Stokes story is a model of compassion and courage that we all — athlete, fan, human being — could grow from if followed.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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