It’s common to compare today’s players to those from 10 or even 20 years ago.
But Oscar Robertson has a much broader frame of reference.
Asked to compare Kings center DeMarcus Cousins to any player he’s seen, Robertson recalled a player who made his mark in a brief NBA career that was cut short by a serious injury for the Kings franchise when it was the Cincinnati Royals.
“Maurice Stokes was 6-7, real quick around the basket and averaged (16.8) points and (16.3) rebounds his first year, quick with the ball, and Cousins is like that,” Robertson said Wednesday. “He likes facing people up, and if he can get away with it, that’s fine.”
Stokes averaged 16.4 points and 17.3 rebounds from 1955 to 1958. A hard fall at the end of the 1957-58 season in which he landed on his head led to a seizure and a diagnosis of post-traumatic encephalopathy, a brain injury that damaged his motor-control center and left him paralyzed.
Stokes was so skilled that in his final season he was second in the league in rebounding (18.1) and third in assists (6.4), something only Wilt Chamberlain accomplished for a season.
Twelve years after going into a coma, Stokes died April 6, 1970, of a heart attack. Teammate Jack Tywman cared for him until his death. Stokes’ No. 12 and Twyman’s No. 27 are retired by the franchise.
Last year, the NBA announced the Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award to recognize the player who embodies the league’s ideal teammate.
Robertson, who like Stokes and Twyman played for the Royals and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, was at Wednesday’s Kings season finale against Phoenix to present the Oscar Robertson Triple Double Award to the King who excels on the court and in the community. The winner was Rudy Gay, who was honored before the game.
Robertson, who was recognized during the first quarter for the 50th anniversary of his league MVP award, said he watches the Kings four to five times a season.
“I watch certain teams play,” he said. “I like to watch San Antonio play because they move the ball around; they use a lot of different people. I watch Miami sometimes, and sometimes I don’t because they get into a jump-shooting frenzy and that’s all they want to do. I really feel in order to win you have to be able to go inside.”
Richmond watched the game from courtside with Robertson and Kings adviser and Hall of Famer Chris Mullin.