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

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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Oscar Robertson’s Triple-Double Season

via Cincinnati.com
via Cincinnati.com

“Looking back, I never fully realized what he was doing,” [Jack] Twyman said.”It was not called a triple-double. We just went out every night trying to win. I don’t think Oscar or anyone really worried about statistics.”

- Via “Unnoticed Then, Oscar Robertson’s Triple-Double Unparalleled”

The triple-double is a most intoxicating basketball feat. It announces and confirms a player’s all-around, comprehensive ability to control a game. It’s mastering the art of scoring, the grueling task of rebounding and the finesse duty of passing.

And no one did the did the triple-double quite like Oscar Robertson. Or did it quite as much. His career total of 181 triple-doubles is 43 ahead of 2nd-place Magic Johnson.

Robertson accomplished the bulk of his triple-double mania in the first 6 years of his career (1961 – 1966). In fact, if you average out his total points, rebounds and assists from these seasons you get the following: 30.4 ppg, 10.7 apg, and 10.0 rpg.

But only during the 1961-62 campaign did Oscar accomplish the triple -double average within a single season.

Oscar Robertson entered the NBA in 1960-61 and was the long-awaited savior for the Cincinnati Royals. The franchise had suffered moribund back-to-back 19-win seasons in 1959 and 1960. These atrocious campaigns were mostly the result of the paralysis suffered by Royals big man Maurice Stokes at the end of the 1958 season. Without the big forward, Jack Twyman valiantly tried to keep the team afloat.  In 1960 he became the 1st player (along with Wilt Chamberlain that season) to average over 30 points a game.

But Twyman as great as he was – a hall of famer in fact – was no Oscar.

Robertson immediately turned the Royals around his rookie year pushing them to a much-improved 33-46 record behind his 30.5 ppg, 10.1 rpg and 9.7 apg. Almost a triple-double average, but not quite. The Big O would have to settle for the Rookie of the Year Award, 1st-Team All-NBA honors and being named the All-Star Game MVP.

Although the Royals missed out on the postseason, they were obviously on the way up with such a devastating, unique player in tow.

Robertson stood 6’5″ and weighed a good 210 lbs. That’s a big load for a point guard playing in today’s NBA, let alone in 1961. A decade earlier, Robertson could have easily slid into the PF spot for most teams. But actually, Robertson did play with a tremendous amount of power. He would use that bulk to pummel opponents into submission just wearing and bearing down on them. Getting to a favored spot on the court, he could easily rise up to shoot over the shorter defender or just make a spin and be at the rim for a layup.

The Royals opened the 1961-62 season in St. Louis taking on the Hawks. Robertson led the Royals to victory with 35 points and 15 rebounds and helped set up Twyman for 39 points. A little over a week later in the home opener at Cincinnati, the Big O again led the attack:

After sparking the Cincinnati Royals to a 44-point first quarter in their home opener, Oscar Robertson scored six points in the final two minutes to squelch a Syracuse Nats rally and produce a 139-132 Royals victory…

Robertson also set a Cincinnati Garden record with 8 assists in the first quarter.

A little over a month later in early December, Robertson orchestrated an absolute drubbing of the last-place Chicago Packers. The only bright spot for the Packers that season was the phenomenal rookie Walt Bellamy. But there was nothing Bells and company could do this night to thwart Oscar:

With Oscar Robertson scoring 32 points and also leading his team in rebounds and assists, the Cincinnati Royals defeated the Chicago Packers 133-117…

Robertson finished with 20 assists, feeding off 15 in the first half when he made only seven points. He also led his team with 15 of their 70 rebounds, while the Packers got 60.

Robertson was one of the more demanding teammates in league history and had a surly, difficult personality. However, the demanding tone was because the Big O expected perfection and execution. As the season progressed it was clear the Royals were still on the ascent with Bob Boozer, Wayne Embry and Bucky Bockhorn filling out the starting 5 with Robertson and Twyman. Oscar was quite pleased with the formation:

Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati’s great scorer, rebounder and defensive stalwart in the National Basketball Association, said today the Royals have improved over last year because the team is “working together more, playing together.”

The former Cincinnati University All-America voiced the opinion that the Royals are better balanced in scoring than the Philadelphia Warriors in the NBA.

As it happened, the Royals played the Warriors soon after Oscar gave that quote and the Royals won 151-133. 4 players scored between 19 and 28 for the Royals in the victory. Philadelphia was led by the 54 points of Wilt Chamberlain.

The Royals were 27-21 after that victory and would finish the season 43-37, the best record since the 1954 season when the franchise, then in Rochester, went 44-28. The record was good enough for 2nd place in the Western Division.

Robertson’s regular season was quite remarkable, even leaving aside the triple-double average. He shot .478 from the field and .822 from the free throw line. Extraordinarily efficient shooting for a primary ball-handler in the 1960s. He and Larry Costello were the only point guards to shot like that from the field and the line at the time.

And the amount of free throws Oscar took were plentiful. That load of his proved so unbearable for so many opponents he wound up taking 11 free throws a night. Good enough for 10th all-time among single seasons for a guard.

The 12.5 rebounds per game and 985 total rebounds remain the records for a guard in a single season. He and Tom Gola of the Philadelphia Warriors remain the only guards to average over 10 rebounds per game for a season.

Finally, the assists he handed out pretty much shattered the previous single-season record. In 1960, Bob Cousy became the 1st player to eclipse the 9.0 apg mark with 9.5. Then the next year along came Oscar who edged out that average with 9.7. Then this season, 1962, Oscar blew the mark to shreds averaging 11.4 making him the 1st player to surpass the 10.0 apg barrier.

In the postseason, the Royals would be bounced 3-games-to-1 by the Detroit Pistons, led by Bailey Howell, in the opening round. Robertson for his part did continue his triple-double ways in the series with 29 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists per game while shooting .519 from the field and .795 from the line. A few others have come close (Wilt, Rajon Rondo, Magic Johnson), but only Jason Kidd has joined Oscar in the highly exclusive triple-double club for the postseason.

The Royals, now moved to the Eastern Division, reached their peak in 1963 and 1964. Both seasons they lost to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Finals, including an unforgettable Game 7 in 1963 where Oscar went off for 43 points and Sam Jones of the Celtics scored 47. Steadily thereafter, the Royals descended into mediocrity and ultimately Oscar was traded to Milwaukee. With the Bucks, he would finally capture that elusive title alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bob Dandridge in 1971.

But that 1962 Oscar Robertson… that was the Big O of NBA lore.

He’s not the 1964 MVP. He’s not a 1971 NBA champion. And 1960 Olympic gold medalist? Forget about it. Those aren’t the triplets that get the imagination wondering and the mind spinning.

30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists per game.

Those are the triplets that bewitch, bother and bewilder the boggled mind. Several other players have reached an apex as high as Oscar’s 1962 season… but the triple-double?

That’s the M.O. of the Big O.

The Lowdown: Maurice Stokes

Years Active: 1956 – 1958
Regular Season Stats: 202 games, 37.3 mpg
16.4 ppg, 17.3 rpg, 5.3 apg, 35.1% FG, 69.8% FT
Postseason Stats: 1 game, 39 mpg
12 ppg, 15 rpg, 2 apg, 25% FG, 85.7% FT
Accolades: 3x All-Star (1956-’58), 3x All-NBA 2nd Team (1956-’58), 1956 Rookie of the Year

Stokes tallied 32 points and nabbed 20 rebounds in Rochester’s 100-98 loss to New York Saturday. On Sunday, he dropped to 17 points but again collared 20 rebounds as the Royals handed the champion Syracuse Nationals a 83-80 defeat.

Via Stokes Off To Fast Start in Pro Loop

Maurice Stokes was not the 1st black player in the NBA. That honor belongs to Earl Lloyd in 1950 (and Wat Misaka was the 1st non-white person in the league in 1947). Nor was Stokes the first selected at a lofty draft position. Ray Felix was taken #1 overall in 1953. Nor was he the first all-star. That would be Don Barksdale in the 1952-53 season.

Maurice Stokes was simply the 1st black superstar in the NBA. Not just a really good or all-star caliber player, but one who truly shifted the fortunes of a franchise by himself and could alter the way the game as a whole was played. He wasn’t merely a player who did an established role particularly well, he expanded, fused and created new roles for his position (power forward) in ways that still have been mastered by only a few players.

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