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, 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.
Seasons Played: 1956 – 1958
Rookie of the Year (1956)
3x All-NBA 2nd Team (1956-’58)
3x All-Star (1956-’58)
NBA – 202 Games
16.4 PPG, 17.3 RPG, 5.3 APG, 35.1% FG, 69.8% FT
RPG Leader (1956)