The NBA has unveiled a new annual honor, the Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award, and will announce the first winner at 7 p.m. before Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday.
The 12 nominees for the award -- six from each conference -- were selected by a panel of NBA legends "according to 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."
Current players voted on the winner -- they were not allowed to vote for a player on their own team -- which was chosen based on a points system of 10 points for a first-place vote, seven for second, five for third, three for fourth and one for fifth.
This year's finalists include: Jerry Stackhouse (Brooklyn Nets), Luke Walton (Cleveland Cavaliers), Andre Iguodala (Denver Nuggets), Jarrett Jack (Golden State Warriors), Roy Hibbert (Indiana Pacers), Chauncey Billups (Los Angeles Clippers), 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).
The award was named after Jack Twyman and Maurice Stokes, teammates on the 1955-56 Cincinnati Royals.
Both became All-Stars, too, but the Royals were wrapping up a 33-39 season when Stokes fell during a game in Minneapolis. His head injury (post-traumatic encephalopathy) caused him to lapse into a coma days later and left him permanently paralyzed.
Stokes’ family couldn’t provide the care or money he needed, so Twyman took over as his legal guardian. It was Twyman who argued successfully for work-injury compensation to cover some of Stokes’ initial medical bills.
It was Twyman, too, with the assistance of a Kutsher’s hotel and resort in the Catskills (N.Y.), who organized a charity basketball event in his friend’s name, raising $10,000 for more of Stokes’ expenses. He lobbied the league’s biggest stars — Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Elgin Baylor — to play in the annual exhibitions. Funds raised after Stokes’ death in 1970 at age 36 were used to help other players in need. Twyman, while attending to his own family, spent hundreds of hours with Stokes, helping him regain small bits of his speech and limited mobility. Later, he took Stokes, in a wheelchair, to some of the benefit games. In 2004, after years of lobbying by Twyman, Stokes gained his enshrinement in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. Twyman, who was enshrined in 1983, died in 2012 at age 78.