Jack Twyman, left, checks in on Maurice Stokes, center, during physical therapy. (NBA Photo Library/Getty Images)
MIAMI -- The NBA announced Sunday that Clippers guard Chauncey Billups is the winner of the inaugural Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year award.
"I'm just very honored to be the first recipient of such a prestigious and great award," Billups said, as he received the award prior to tip off of Game 2 of the NBA Finals between the Heat and Spurs at the American Airlines Arena. "This is an unbelievable honor for me to have my name alongside Mr. Twyman."
NBA.com first reported the details of the new award, which recognizes the "ideal teammate" who displays "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."
The award takes its name from Jack Twyman and Maurice Stokes, who spent three seasons as teammates on the Rochester Royals and Cincinnati Royals in the 1950s. Stokes suffered a career-ending head injury in 1958 and fell into a coma after a series of seizures. The injury eventually left Stokes paralyzed and Twyman soon became his legal guardian, caring for him and helping raise money for his medical bills.
“Maurice was on his own,” Twyman told The New York Post in 2008. “Something had to be done and someone had to do it. I was the only one there, so I became that someone.”
The Twyman-Stokes trophy depicts Twyman holding a basketball in one hand and extending the other to help Stokes up from the court.
"The story is the most unbelievable story I've heard in sports," Billups said. "For my name to be mentioned with [Twyman's]... I almost don't feel worthy."
The Twyman-Stokes Trophy depicts Jack Twyman lending a hand to Maurice Stokes. (NBA)
Billups emerged as the winner from a group of 12 finalists that included: Shane Battier (Heat), Manu Ginobili (Spurs), Roy Hibbert (Pacers), Serge Ibaka (Thunder), Andre Iguodala (Nuggets), Jarrett Jack (Warriors), Jason Kidd (Knicks), Roger Mason, Jr. (Hornets), Emeka Okafor (Wizards), Jerry Stackhouse (Nets) and Luke Walton (Cavaliers).
"Chauncey Billups defines what this award was designed to recognize, a player committed to his club, his teammates and his community,” NBA commissioner David Stern said in a statement. “He has mentored and guided countless young players to adopt his selfless attitude, dedication, passion for our game and to respect the history and example of players like Jack Twyman and Maurice Stokes.”
Six finalists were selected from each conference by a panel of former NBA players and the league's current players voted on the winner, with players being unable to vote for their own teammates. Following Billups, Battier finished second, Kidd third, Jack fourth and Stackhouse fifth.
The Teammate of the Year award joins the league's Citizenship Award, which recognizes community service contributons, and the Sportsmanship Award, which honors on-court integrity, as annual "non-basketball" awards. Billups has now won all three, taking home the Citizenship Award in 2008 and the Sportsmanship Award in 2009.
Billups, 36, averaged 8.4 points and 2.2 assists in 22 appearances for the Clippers this year after tearing his Achilles tendon during the 2011-12 season. A 16-year pro out of Colorado, Billups was a member of the title-winning 2004 Pistons and is a five-time All-Star. He enters the offseason as an unrestricted free agent.
Both Twyman and Stokes are members of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Twyman died of blood cancer at the age of 78 in 2012; Stokes died of a heart attack at age 36 in 1970.