Chauncey Billups Wins Inaugural Twyman-Stokes Award

Jack Twyman

Jack Twyman

For those of you who thought the NBA award season was over, think again.  The NBA has instituted a new award: the Twyman-Stokes Award.  The award is named after Jack Twyman and Maurice Stokes.  Why name the award after these two players?  Twyman was an All-Star, and Hall of Fame inductee, but he never won a championship or MVP award and never made the All-NBA First team.  Stokes, though he lead the league in rebounds as a rookie, only played three seasons before his career was tragically cut short by an in-game injury that left him paralyzed.  It was Twyman’s actions off the court that inspired the award.  He took on the initial medical bills and fought to have the league recognize the incident as a work-place injury and therefore take over payment of medical treatment.  Twyman also held fundraising games featuring some of the best players in the league and visited Stokes often in the hospital, helping him to improve his speech and some degree of mobility.  Stokes passed away in 1970, but Twyman’s efforts on behalf of his teammate did not end there.  After a number of years of lobbying, Twyman finally helped Stokes earn a place in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

 

The Twyman-Stokes Award.

The Twyman-Stokes Award.

Such instances of selflessness are rare indeed, and fortunately the circumstances which require them are rare as well.  So what is the purpose of the award?  It is meant to recognize the ‘ideal’ teammate. A teammate who on and off the court puts the team first and makes his teammates a priority, be it via mentoring or selflessness.  A player who serves as a role model and inspiration and helps his teammates reach a higher level, which is why it is fitting that Chauncey Billups be the first recipient of the award, not simply for what he’s done this season, but also for what he’s done throughout his career.

 

The Twyman-Stokes Award is not the first award Chauncey Billups has won.  In 2004 he also won the Finals MVP.

The Twyman-Stokes Award is not the first award Chauncey Billups has won. In 2004 he also won the Finals MVP.

Billups’ resume is impressive.  Drafted by the Boston Celtics, Billups would go onto play for the: Toronto Raptors, Denver Nuggets (twice) Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks and most recently the Los Angeles Clippers, though it was his tenure with the Detroit Pistons where Billups saw his most successful seasons.  A finals MVP, an NBA championship, several appearances on All-Star teams, All-NBA teams and All-Defensive teams, but it is what he has done for his teammates which defines his success.  In Denver, for example, Billups came in via a trade that sent out Allen Iverson.  Most would agree that Iverson is the better individual player, but with Billups the Nuggets went deeper into the playoff than they ever had before.  Billups did not put up impressive personal stats in that post-season run, but he put his team first and it was contagious.  The Nuggets, despite compiling a better regular season record than they did with Billups, failed to duplicate such success since they trade Billups.

 

David Stern (left) award Billups with the inaugural Twyman-Stokes Award.

David Stern (left) award Billups with the inaugural Twyman-Stokes Award.

Last season was much the same when Billups joined the Clippers.  Though Billups had spent his career playing point guard, he realized that Chris Paul was the better player and so agreed to move to shooting guard and let Paul handle the ball when he was on the court.  This sacrifice, though small, served as an example, as did Billups’ commitment to the game this season.  After going down with an injury last year, many though Billups’ career was over, but his fortitude and work ethic proved to be an inspiration to players as Billups returned to the line-up after suffering a torn Achilles.  Throughout his career Billups has put his team and his teammates first and has lead by example.  There are no doubt a number of players who are equally deserving of this award, but there are perhaps none who are more deserving.  As for the award, it is perhaps one that is overdue.  Too often fans and players alike put too much focus on statistics and personal achievement.  This award does two things.  It recognizes how important teammates are because, after all, basketball is a team sport; it also recognizes that at the end of the day it is just a game and what a player does off the court is more important than what a player does on the court.

 

Speak Your Mind

*