The short but brilliant career of Maurice Stokes, a Hall of Famer who played only three seasons

Maurice Stokes was a basketball phenom who had his career ended by a devastating injury after only three seasons in the NBA. But he was so impressive in those three seasons that he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004. This article will explore how Stokes made it to the Hall of Fame despite playing so briefly.

Stokes was a 6-foot-7, 235-pound forward-center who was selected second overall by the Rochester Royals (now the Sacramento Kings) in 1955. He was a versatile player who could score, rebound, pass and defend at a high level. In his rookie season, he averaged 16.8 points, 16.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. He won the Rookie of the Year award and made the All-NBA Second Team. He was one of the few players who could compete with Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, the two dominant big men of his era.

In his second season, Stokes improved his stats to 15.6 points, 17.4 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. He led the league in rebounding and broke the NBA's single-season record for rebounds with 1,256. He made his first All-Star appearance and again made the All-NBA Second Team.

In his third season, Stokes averaged 16.9 points, 18.1 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game. He ranked second in rebounding and third in assists, becoming one of the first players to average a double-double with assists. He made his second All-Star appearance and his third All-NBA Second Team.

Stokes also led his team to the playoffs for the first time in his third season, but he never got to play more than one game. In the final regular season game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Stokes collided with another player and fell to the floor, hitting his head hard. He lost consciousness for a few minutes, but then woke up and continued to play, finishing with 24 points, 19 rebounds and six assists.

However, a few days later, after playing one playoff game against the Detroit Pistons, Stokes collapsed on a plane and fell into a coma. He was rushed to a hospital, where he was diagnosed with post-traumatic encephalopathy, a brain injury that damaged his central nervous system. He was left permanently paralyzed and could not speak or move.

Stokes lived for another 12 years, but he never played basketball again. He died in 1970 at the age of 37.

Stokes was one of the best players of his time, but he never got to fulfill his potential or win any championships or MVP awards. He only had one rebounding title, three All-NBA Second Teams and two All-Star selections to his name. But he was so respected and admired by his peers that he was voted into the Hall of Fame in 2004 by the Veterans Committee³. George Gervin, who was one of the best scorers in NBA history, said: "Maurice Stokes was a very talented basketball player who deserved to be in the Hall of Fame."⁶

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