Pro Hoops History HOF: Jack Twyman

(AP Images)
(AP Images)

Jack Twyman was a man with a soft touch and a soft heart. He is most famous for caring after his Royals’ teammate Maurice Stokes who was paralyzed by an on-court accident. For over a decade Twyman helped raise funds for Stokes’ medical care and personally visited Maurice every week for the rest of the fallen all-star’s life.

All the while, Twyman was delivering his soft touch on the court.

He debuted with Stokes on the Rochester Royals in the 1955-56 season. The rookie Twyman scored a very respectable 14 points and nabbed 6 rebounds a night at small forward. Over the years, and after Stokes’ debilitation, Twyman assumed a bigger offensive load:

1956: 14 PPG
1957: 16 PPG
1958: 17 PPG
1959: 26 PPG
1960: 31 PPG

That rise in Twyman’s scoring average coincided with the decline in the Royals’ on-court fortune. Sure he was, along with Wilt Chamberlain, the first player to average over 30 points for a season, but the Royals won only 19 games. Help came the next year, though, in the form of Oscar Robertson.

Twyman no longer needed to dominate the offense, but he still was an instrumental cog averaging 25, 23 and 20 points over the next three seasons.  His average was declining but his FG% stood at 48% during this period compared to 43% before Oscar arrived. Robertson had the ability to hit Twyman at the right time for the right shot for Jack to nail.

Illustrating this last point, in 1966 the Royals held Jack Twyman Night in honor of the man who was retiring at season’s end. Robertson decided to make the nigh truly special by feeding Twyman over and over. Jack who was averaging 7.5 points in that final year netted 39 against the hapless Knicks. It was one final spectacular display of the thing Twyman did so great: taking and making jumpers.

Perhaps there was a shot Jack Twyman met that he didn’t like. We’re still looking for it, though.

Years Played: 1956 – 1966

Accolades

NBA -
2x All-NBA 2nd Team (1960, 1962)
6x All-Star (1957-’60, 1962-’63)

Statistics

NBA - 823 Games
19.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 2.3 APG, 45.0% FG, 77.8% FT
FG% Leader (1958)

Contemporary NBA Ranks (1955-56 through – 1965-66 season)
4th Points, 16th PPG
3rd FGs Made, 17th FG%
9th FTs Made, 32nd FT%
15th Rebounds, 17th Assists
2nd Games Played, 4th Minutes Played

Pro Hoops History HOF: Oscar Robertson

(Spokeo.com)
(Spokeo.com)

The best way to describe Oscar Robertson’s playing style is inexorable.

Inexorably he would wear down and beat up opposing guards with his sheer size. Standing 6’5″ tall and weighing a good 220 lbs, Oscar was easily the biggest point guard the NBA had yet seen. He was certainly the most physically imposing one too. Other guards simply couldn’t handle the Big O as he backed them down for easy post shots.

Inexorably he tore up the entire opponent, not just his own defender. His passing was pinpoint accurate. Seven times Robertson led the NBA in assists per game. He could rebound with the big boys, too, averaging 10.4 rebounds over his first five seasons. His assists per game over the first five seasons? 10.6. And he was of course delivering 30 points a night.

Yep, the Big O averaged a triple double over the course of his first five seasons.

Inexorably, though, team success was rough to come by for Robertson. He surely had great teammates with the Cincinnati Royals like Jack Twyman, Bob Boozer, Wayne Embry, and Jerry Lucas over the years, but the team never quite coalesced into a serial title contender. By 1968, Robertson led the NBA in PPG and APG in the same season, but the Royals finished 39-43 and out of the playoffs.

Two more losing seasons followed and Oscar seemed doomed to his career ending in a whimper. Luckily for him, though, a trade to Milwaukee in 1970 rejuvenated his career. Playing alongside the towering Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the quicksilver Bob Dandridge, Oscar finally achieved titanic team success. In Oscar’s first season with the Bucks, Milwaukee finished with a 66-16 regular season record and smoked the postseason. They endured just two losses en route to the title. Another Finals appearance came in 1974, but the Boston Celtics thwarted the Bucks in seven games.

By that point Oscar had inexorably come to the end of the line. He was stomped, beat, and whooped up. There was nothing left in the Big O’s tank. But for so many years he had made opponents feel that kind of exhaustion and desperation. Off the court, Oscar amazingly had an even bigger impact by helping to create vibrant players union and instigating free agency. But that’s a story for another day. For now Oscar’s on-court game is more than enough to seal a place forever in this or any basketball Hall of Fame.

Years Played: 1960 – 1974

Accolades

NBA -
Champion (1971)
MVP (1964)
Rookie of the Year (1961)
9x All-NBA 1st Team (1961-’69)
2x All-NBA 2nd Team (1970-’71)
3x All-Star Game MVP (1961, 1964, 1969)
12x All-Star (1961-’72)

Statistics

NBA - 1040 Games
25.7 PPG, 9.5 APG, 7.5 RPG, 48.5% FG, 83.8% FT
7x APG Leader (1961-’62, 1964-’66, 1968-’69)
2x FT% Leader (1964, 1968), PPG Leader (1968)

Contemporary NBA Ranks (1961 – 1974)
1st Assists, 1st APG
2nd Points, 7th PPG
1st FTs Made, 8th FT%
2nd FGs Made, 15th FG%
15th Rebounds
2nd Games Played, 2nd Minutes Played

Nate “Tiny” Archibald

Tiny Archibald (Kansas City Kings Tumblr)
Tiny Archibald (Kansas City Kings Tumblr)

A playground legend on the streets of New York City. A rookie sensation in Cincinnati. A bona fide superstar in Kansas City (and Omaha). A failure back New York. A reclamation and redemption in Boston. Nathaniel “Tiny” Archibald lived quite the basketball life.

Arriving on the banks of the Ohio River for the 1970-71 season, Archibald had the not so tiny task of replacing the recently departed Oscar Robertson as the Cincinnati Royals’ point guard. Initially sharing the backcourt with the outstanding Norm Van Lier (who led the NBA in APG that season), Archibald played mostly off-guard his rookie year in 1971. Van Lier, though, was traded to Chicago giving Archibald full control of the team in his 2nd season. By Archibald’s 3rd season, he practically was the team as the Cincinnati Royals moved to Kansas City and became the Kings.

Archibald’s progression and ascendancy was simply astounding:
1971: 16 PPG, 5.5 APG, 44.4% FG, 75.7% FT
1972: 28 PPG, 9.0 APG, 48.6% FG, 82.2% FT
1973: 34 PPG, 11.5 APG, 48.8% FG, 84.7% FT

However, the Royals/Kings franchise didn’t follow a similar pattern. They racked up 33, 30, and 36 wins during this same period. More Archibald, at least this kind of Archibald, didn’t mean more success.

By 1975, the Kings had figured out a winning formula that included a lot of Tiny’s awesome game, but also involved a more egalitarian offense with Sam Lacey, Scott Wedman, and Jimmy Walker helping out. Archibald still averaged 26.5 points, but six other teammates also finished in double figures for the season. With 44 wins the Kings made the playoffs for the only time in Archibald’s career with them.

From there Archibald was released into the NBA’s wilderness. The Kings traded him to the New York Nets prior to the 1976-77 season. Archibald only played 35 games for the franchise due to a foot injury. The Nets then traded Archibald to the Buffalo Braves prior to the 1977-78 season. Archibald never played a game for Buffalo thanks to an Achilles tear. The Braves (by now the San Diego Clippers) then traded the has-been guard to the Boston Celtics prior to the 1978-79 season.

An NBA GM summed up this depressing portion of Archibald’s career:

“The sad part,” one NBA general manager told Sport magazine in 1980, “is that I’m not sure anyone would have taken Tiny. Heck, he was 30 years old, had a bad reputation and a huge contract. He seemed to have lost his game.”

His stay in Boston began in rocky fashion, but Archibald found redemption in the 1979-80 season thanks to new coach Bill Fitch who instituted a coherent structure and let Archibald run the offense. It didn’t hurt that Tiny also had a rookie Larry Bird to ease the burden. Archibald’s unflappable dribbling and command of the offense helped propel Boston to a string of 60-win seasons and the NBA title in 1981.

Personally, he was rewarded with three-straight all-star appearances (his first since 1976) and was named the MVP of the 1981 contest. His numbers of 12.5 points and 7 assists with the Celtics paled in comparison to his Royals/Kings days, but Archibald was still great with Boston at controlling the tempo and never losing his dribble. His ability to penetrate, finish at the basket, and hit lofting left-handed jumpers didn’t hurt much either.

A little older and a little wiser, Tiny’s Celtics days showed that second acts in the NBA aren’t just possible, but they can be richer and more rewarding than the first.

Years Played: 1970 – 1984

Accolades

NBA -
Champion (1981)
3x All-NBA 1st Team (1973, 1975-’76)
2x All-NBA 2nd Team (1972, 1981)
6x All-Star (1973, 1975-’76, 1980-’82)
All-Star Game MVP (1981)

Statistics

NBA - 876 games
18.8 PPG, 7.4 APG, 2.3 RPG, 1.1 SPG
46.7% FG, 81.0% FT

Pro Hoops History HOF: Maurice Stokes

Maurice Stokes
Maurice Stokes

Although he played a career that lasted just three seasons, Maurice Stokes left us a surefire Hall of Fame career with the Rochester and Cincinnati Royals.

To begin appreciating Maurice, consider how many players have averaged over 15 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists in one reason. The consideration only includes Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Elgin Baylor… and Stokes. Maurice accomplished the 15/15/5 feat in his final NBA season (1957-58) but he had been running close to that milestone all his career:

1955-56: 16.8 points, 16.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists
1956-57: 15.6 points, 17.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists
1957-58: 16.9 points, 18.1 rebounds, 6.4 assists

At 6’7″ and a muscled 230 pounds (that’s the official listing, he reportedly weighed more), Stokes was one of the strongest and most physically imposing basketball players in the 1950s NBA. He could snare a defensive rebound and push the ball all the way up the court. This was a skill few, if any, forwards could pull off. Especially a forward so big. He was basically a steamrolling powerhouse when it came to the break.

In his three seasons, Stokes was always an all-star and always a member of the All-NBA team. He was the 1956 Rookie of the Year. He led the league in RPG his rookie season and finished in 2nd place his final two seasons. He finished 3rd in APG in back-to-back seasons. In his rookie year, he was one of the rare handful of players to ever finish in the top 10 in PPG, APG, and RPG in the same season.

However, his career was indeed much too short. Falling on his head during the final game in the 1958 season, Stokes played in only one more game before he slipped into a coma. He ultimately emerged from the trauma but remained paralyzed for the rest of his life passing away at age 36.

His career is a cautionary tale, but his life is an inspirational one. We’d be fools to ever forget the lessons and triumphs of Maurice Stokes.

Years Played: 1955 – 1958

Accolades

NBA -
Rookie of the Year (1956)
3x All-NBA 2nd Team (1956-’58)
3x All-Star (1956-’58)

Statistics

NBA – 202 Games
16.4 PPG, 17.3 RPG, 5.3 APG, 35.1% FG, 69.8% FT
RPG Leader (1956)

Contemporary NBA Ranks (1955-56 through 1957-58 season)
1st Rebounds, 1st RPG
2nd Assists, 2nd APG
11th Points, 9th PPG
10th FGs Made
16th FTs Made
35th Games Played, 6th Minutes Played

Pro Hoops History HOF: Jerry Lucas

Jerry Lucas (spokeo.com)
Jerry Lucas (spokeo.com)

Jerry Lucas was an outstanding player. He had a good scoring touch, could tighten up his belt on defense, but what he’s known best for is rebounding. Rather than mince words, let’s let Lucas and his old teammate Wayne Embry summarize the obsession…

Wayne Embry: I never saw anyone as obsessed with rebounding as Jerry Lucas. I played center next to him, and I’d get a rebound and he’d get mad at me and fight me for it. I’d say ‘Hey, Jerry, I’m on your side.’ He wanted to outrebound everybody on both teams.

Jerry Lucas: …I was also absolutely manic about rebounds. I had great timing and a sixth sense. I knew where the ball would come off the board when a guy shot it, because I studied his tendencies… About everyone could outjump me, and they would just rely on their legs to get the rebounds. But that wasn’t good enough. I always could outrebound guys who just lived off their legs.

This maniacal pursuit of the boards led Lucas to a five-year stretch (1965 to 1969) where he practically averaged 20 points and 20 rebounds a game: 20.1 points and 19.5 rebounds to be exact. Lucas’s ability to swish mid-range jumpers and deliver hook shots helped ease the offensive pressure on his superb teammate, Oscar Robertson. Together they led the Royals to 55 wins, the best during their Cincinnati era, during Lucas’s rookie season in 1963-64. The Royals advanced to the Eastern Division Finals but were beaten by Boston in five games. Although possessing Lucas and Robertson, Cincy slowly faded over the ensuing seasons as the rest of the roster deteriorated.

By the 1968-69 season, Cincy hadn’t finished over .500 since 1966. So despite his perennial All-Star status, the Royals concluded Lucas’ time was up on the Ohio River.

Unfortunately, a trade to the San Francisco Warriors in 1969 didn’t herald much team success either. Postseason success finally arrived in 1971 when the Warriors traded Lucas to the New York Knicks. Although approaching the twilight of his career and his rebounding and scoring had fallen off considerably, Lucas provided the Knicks with his most under-appreciated asset: passing.

In the egalitarian New York offense, Lucas’ ability to pass as a power forward (4 APG in his 3 Knicks seasons) was instrumental in leading the club to the 1972 NBA Finals, which they lost, and the 1973 Finals, which they won.

As one of the most cerebral players ever to lace up a pair of sneakers, Lucas couldn’t have a found a better team to be on than those Knicks. The shame is that it took most of his career to find the perfect squad for his talents.

The championship payout, although delayed, was more than justified for the wiz rebounder who for half a decade proved the NBA’s premier power forward.

Years Played: 1963 – 1974

Accolades

 NBA –
3x All-NBA 1st Team (1965-’66, 1968)
2x All-NBA 2nd Team (1964, ’67)
7x All-Star (1964-’69, 1971)
All-Star Game MVP (1965)
All-Rookie Team (1964)
Rookie of the Year (1964)

Statistics

NBA Career (1963-64 through 1973-74)
Peak Career Production
(1963-64 through 1971-72)

Average and Advanced Stats

Stat Career Playoff Peak Peak Rank
Games 829 72 685 9th
PPG 17.0 12.4 18.8 18th
RPG 15.6 10.0 17.6 3rd
APG 3.3 3.0 3.2 39th
SPG 0.38 0.36 N/A N/A
BPG 0.33 0.00 N/A N/A
TS% 0.544 0.511 0.546 8th
2PT% 0.499 0.467 0.500 7th
3PT% N/A N/A N/A N/A
FT% 0.783 0.786 0.785 30th
PER 18.9 16.0 19.3 8th
WS/48 0.147 0.100 0.147 16th
Ortg N/A N/A N/A
Drtg 94 99 N/A

Aggregate Stats

Stat Career Playoff Peak Peak Rank
Games 829 72 685 9th
Minutes 32131 2370 28503 3rd
Points 14053 896 12894 8th
Rebounds 12942 717 12058 2nd
Assists 2732 214 2185 17th
Steals 28 4 N/A N/A
Blocks 24 0 N/A N/A
2PTs 5709 367 5203 7th
3PTs N/A N/A N/A N/A
FTs 2635 162 2488 16th
WS 98.4 4.9 87.2 5th

Steals, Blocks, and Drtg not kept until 1973-74

The Lowdown: Jack Twyman

Years Active: 1956 – 1966
Regular Season Stats: 823 games, 31.8 mpg
19.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 2.3 apg, 45% FG, 77.8% FT
Postseason Stats: 34 games, 32.2 mpg
18.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.8 apg, 44.1% FG, 82.4% FT
Accolades: 2x All-NBA 2nd Team (1960, ’62), 6x All-Star (1957-’60, ’62-’63), Hall of Fame (1983)

Jack Twyman (AP)
Jack Twyman (AP)

If you’ve heard of Jack Twyman, it’s likely because of his superhuman, graceful acts off the court. For over a decade he helped care for his teammate and friend Maurice Stokes. That story has rightfully been told several times and will continue to deservedly be told.

(SERIOUSLY, go here and watch the three-part video of the whole story. Powerful stuff)

But Twyman was a fine basketball player and that, too, deserves to be remembered.

A native of Pittsburgh, PA, Twyman starred at the University of Cincinnati averaging 24.6 points and 16.5 rebounds his senior season and is one of only three Bearcats to have their jersey retired. His spectacular offense intrigued the NBA’s Rochester Royals who made him the 8th pick in the 1955 Draft.

Also taken in that same draft and also from Pittsburgh was Maurice Stokes. Twyman and Stokes formed an incredible duo of forwards that looked to finally propel the Royals out of a dangerous mediocrity following their halcyon years with Bob Davies, Arnie Risen and Bob Wanzer. Of course, the superb tandem never really achieved their potential with the Rochester (and then Cincinnati) Royals. Stokes’ paralysis in 1958 curbed the team’s ascent and Twyman was the lone bright spot for the Royals for the rest of the decade.

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The Lowdown: Bob Boozer

Years Active: 1961 – 1971
Regular Season Stats: 874 games, 29.2 mpg
14.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.4 apg, 46.2% FG, 76.1% FT
Postseason Stats: 48 games, 26.7 mpg
11.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.2 apg, 46.7% FG, 73.9% FT
Accolades: NBA Champion (1971), All-Star (1968)

Bob Boozer (upper right) with Royals teammates Jerry Lucas, Oscar Robertson, Adrian Smith and Jay Arnette

The sure hands of Bob Boozer dealt the Boston Celtics their first defeat in eight [NBA] games this season. The 6-foot-8 former Kansas State star hit on a couple of jump shots sandwiched around a Celtic Sam Jones basket for a 116-115 victory… Boozer’s last basket was a short jump shot with five seconds left in the game.

“I knew they were going in as soon as they left my hands,” Boozer said in the happy Royals’ dressing room after the game.

-Via The Bulletin, November 9, 1963

That performance early in the 1963-64 season would be one of Bob Boozer’s final games as a member of the Cincinnati Royals, the only pro club he’d known to that point in the NBA. His trade to the New York Knicks mid-season would be start of a sojourn across several teams in the NBA.

His time with the Knicks was brief. A mere 129 games through the rest of 1964 and all of the 1965 season. From there he hooked up with the Los Angeles Lakers for a year in 1966. His stop in California provided Boozer with his first taste of the NBA Finals. The Lakers lost to the Boston Celtics in 7 games, which was the style at the time. Everyone lost to the Celtics in the Finals. Boozer hardly played a role though in the defeat, appearing in only half the games and barely getting any playing time when it occurred.

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