Teammate Of The Year

By: Lorne Chan

Jack Twyman’s family filed out of his room in hospice care, but he asked Jay Twyman to stay behind.

He wanted to watch the game with his son.

It was Game 2 of the 2012 Western Conference Finals, and the Spurs were playing the Thunder. Jack spent much of the game talking about Tim Duncan. He marveled at the way Duncan moved, and told son how impressed he was by Duncan on and off the court.

“He was in awe of Tim Duncan,” Jay Twyman said. “It was the last game we watched together.”

Twyman passed away the next day at the age of 78.

The NBA christened the Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year award in 2013, recognizing the league’s best teammate based on selfless play, leadership, and commitment and dedication to team.

This year’s recipient is Duncan, who accepted the award on Wednesday.

“It’s poetic how that award has gone to Tim,” Jay Twyman said. “He’s a timeless player, and my father would be so proud to see his name on this award.”

The award recognizes the friendship of Jack Twyman and Maurice Stokes, who were teammates on the Rochester/Cincinnati Royals from 1955 to 1958. 

Stokes was a three-time All-NBA forward who suffered an injury in 1958 that left him permanently paralyzed, and was supported for the rest of his life by Twyman, who became his legal guardian and advocate.

Jay Twyman remembers Stokes coming to the house for dinner every Sunday, an invitation that required ambulances, wheelchairs and workers to get the 6-foot-7 Stokes into the Twyman’s dining room. Jack Twyman continued to support and care for Stokes until Stokes’ death in 1970.

“I’ve done my research on Twyman and Stokes,” Duncan said. “I’ve spoken to a number of different coaches and Pop was great at giving me the background and history of the teammates and what the award truly means. That makes it even more special.”

Duncan was chosen as the award winner by a vote of nearly 300 NBA players.

In a season where he was named an All-Star and was named to the All-NBA and All-Defensive teams all for the 15th time, he’s being honored for his selflessness.

It’s an award that goes far beyond statistics, to the moments that may not get noticed as much. It’s for the times Duncan is the first player to talk to a teammate on the bench or during timeouts, the lifelong relationships he’s built over dinners or paintball and the way he’s mentored younger players.

"It's wonderful that Tim Duncan has been recognized with this award," said Spurs General Manager R.C. Buford. "Everyone is aware of his personal accolades through the years. But perhaps Tim's best attribute, what has been the foundation of our franchise for almost two decades, is that he truly cares more about the success of his teammates and the team than he does about his own personal achievements."

As part of the award, the NBA is making a $25,000 charitable donation. Duncan chose to split the donation between five charities: My Brother's Workshop, the St. Croix chapter of the American Cancer Society, Ten Thousand Helpers, St. Croix Interscholastic Athletic Association and St. Croix Foundation. All are based in Duncan’s native U.S. Virgin Islands.

Ten Thousand Helpers houses homeless men and provides mental health assistance and awareness for St. Croix, Duncan’s native island.

My Brother’s Workshop is a program in nearby St. Thomas for at-risk youth and those with disabilities, providing vocational training in building skills, woodworking, electrical and plumbing, along with a café to teach culinary skills.

“Tim’s a real hero here,” said Scott Bradley, the founder of My Brother’s Workshop. “For some kids around here, all they know is the corner and their island, but when they see someone who has transcended that, it takes away a lot of hurdles.”

The Virgin Islands have a population of 105,000, with Duncan’s charitable contributions over the past two decades going a long way.

He’s often kept his donations on the Virgin Islands quiet, said St. Croix’s Rashidi Clenance, a close friend of Duncan’s. But over the years he’s donated to install public basketball courts, started a high school All-Star game, supported education initiatives and a women’s conference.

There’s a famous story from Duncan’s youth that he took up basketball after Hurricane Hugo destroyed Saint Croix’s only Olympic-sized swimming pool in 1989.

A few years ago, Duncan donated money to restore the pool.

“It’s great that there’s a donation attached to this award,” Duncan said. “I wanted to give back at home. I know the money will help tremendously and go to good use. It’s good to be able to reach out and use something like this to give back to the islands.”



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