March 12, 2008

The Sad tale of Maurice Stokes.: On the 50th anniversary of the accident, Steve Aschburner recounts the night that Maurice Stokes career ended.
via TrueHoop

posted by lilnemo to basketball at 04:38 PM - 13 comments

Great post. Thanks!

posted by BikeNut at 07:32 PM on March 12, 2008

It's funny. About 2 weeks ago I was driving through Monticello NY, returning home after a college visit with my son in upstate NY, and my thoughts turned to the Stokes Game. The Maurice Stokes game would be played every summer at Kutscher's Hotel in Monticello thorugh the 60's and 70's to raise money for Stokes and, since he died much earlier than I remember, his family, I guess. All the NBA's biggest stars would show up each summer, guys like Wilt and Bellamy and Cousy, etc. Can you imagine what would happen today? Although Magic has a fund raiser each summer (or he used to), I would think the Jordan's and Shaq's of today's NBA would send a check and a video! But then again, they didn't play doubleheaders where 4 teams got to interact and share trains and buses, much less room together and get each other off season jobs! I never saw Stokes play and when I see tapes of the players I grew up loving and imitating, I will admit their game is rather limited. But despite the high scoring and the lack of athleticism that is characteristic of those days, I'll take the NBA of the 60's and 70's over today's in a second. Oh to see Van Arsdale and LaRusso again, not mention Earl the PEarl and Russ!!

posted by deadsteen at 09:06 PM on March 12, 2008

Welcome to SpoFi deadsteen. I tend to agree with your assessment. With the NBA's stratospheric rise in popularity and revenue under Stern, the game has become more businesslike and less personable. It puts players at the forefront of its ad campaign. But 75% of the players in the league are indiscernible in their differences. To be fair, Magic's fund raiser has been taken over by Paul Pierce and Baron Davis. And the exploits of Gilbert Arenas, and Channing Frye have made following players off the court more fun the last season or two. I'm sure these examples are not exceptions to how most NBA players are in real life, but it'd be nice to see it reported more often.

posted by lilnemo at 11:44 PM on March 12, 2008

As a graduate of St Francis College, I have seen tributes yearly to Stokes and worked out everyday in the stokes athletic complex(where the gym for hoops is now) He was a great ball player and should have had a great career. To bad it was cut so short Nice post nemo.

posted by Debo270 at 09:30 AM on March 13, 2008

Thanks for the post, nemo. The names mentioned in it alone were worth reading. I well remember those days, and I agree completely with deadsteen about the quality of play in the NBA of the '50s and '60s. I know it might not have happened this way, but think of the Cincinatti Royals with Maurice Stokes and Oscar Robertson on the floor together. The "Big O" was drafted in 1960, and Stokes would have been in his prime for the following few seasons. The early- to mid-'60s would have seen some epic battles between the Royals and the Celtics. I remember the '63 through '66 playoffs, when Robertson almost single handedly stopped Boston (putting Celtics in a 2 - 1 hole in '66 before the C's rallied to take the last 2). Red Auerbach's strategy was to guard Robertson as closely as possible (I believe he might have used Tom Sanders to do this), but to understand that he would get his points. The second part was to keep anyone else on the Royals from breaking out with a big game. Finally, the play was to keep Robertson busy on defense and wear him down. Had Stokes been there for Cincinatti, we might have been looking at an entirely different history. It would not have been possible to stop them both.

posted by Howard_T at 10:43 AM on March 13, 2008

AMEN to all the above with their comparision of the 2 eras, past and present. In the said(55,60,and some of the 70) time frame fundemental basketbal was played. The game was not 3 point shooting and a slam dunk contest. Pick and Roll, Blocking out, Squaring your shoulders with the backboard for a put back, proper free throw form, were coached in that time frame. It amazes me as I have been watching the NCAA these past few days how the total concept of the game has been abandon. I see young men who bring the ball up one side of the court or the other on the fast break when the ball should be brought up the middle and the lanes should be filled for an outlet pass to the left or right. I see players who miss free throws going down the stretch, and lose conference titles simply because they think it is more important to practice a 3 point shot at the end of practice instead of free throws, and worst of all VERY POOR clock control going down the stretch in a tight game. The strategy seems to be hold the ball until the last second and pray for the 3 pointer to go in. The game has evolved into streetball and nothing more. Where has the coaching gone? We are now watching basketball that has been relegated to an AAU level. I profess that if you had a team made up of Oscar,Stokes, and Walt Belamy, along with some complimentry players, of that era, not superstars this team would win the NBA title hands down. The same would go at the college level with fundemental players. The game of basketball has been replaced with alley ball, because of poor coaching, AAU, and the televised NBA games. Professional basketball is garbage. I'm sorry for my rant, but I love the game that has feel by the way-side This was one of the best articles I have read in along time. Oscar has some great old experiences in his book "The Big O". It is a very good book to read.

posted by sportnut at 09:48 AM on March 14, 2008

sportnut, I think that is kind of a blanket statement. If you watch Duke, Kansas, and North Carolina, just to name a few, I think you will see that good fundamental basketball is still being played in a lot of places. Turgeon's theam at A&M is another prime example of this.

posted by hawkguy at 10:20 AM on March 14, 2008

I agree with you hawkguy on mentioned teams. But the truest statement you made was a FEW, very few.

posted by sportnut at 12:10 PM on March 14, 2008

Please, let's not get into the "sports were so much better back in the day than they are today" cycle. It's a bad argument, using bad logic, that is all too often unprovable by any reasonable standard. Appreciate the game you've got, and stop lamenting about how great things were when you were a kid. It's not good for your heart.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 07:52 AM on March 15, 2008

As half of my tag proclaims, I'm an old ABA guy. Grew up watching the Pacers coached by Slick Leonard, so his takes in the Stokes piece were appreciated. I think talent-wise, there were as many good players then as now, only now the training's different, the outlook more corporate, etc. You don't think a Mo Stokes, with 2008 facilities, would shine in the modern NBA? Or Elgin Baylor? Bob Love? Roger Brown? Okay, I'll give you George Mikan, whose only advantage was that he was big when there were few big men (and I like Mikan -- the first ABA commish, remember). But players like Maravich or Charlie Scott, whom a friend of mine says would not make the Bobcats, much less a better team today, I believe would do just fine, applying their gifts to the modern age. Enough of this generation segregation!

posted by afl-aba at 08:05 AM on March 15, 2008

Please, let's not get into the "sports were so much better back in the day than they are today" cycle. It's a bad argument, using bad logic, that is all too often unprovable by any reasonable standard. I don't think any of us are trying to say that basketball was better in the '50s and '60s. The point is that the game was different, and possibly more enjoyable as a TEAM sport, than it is today. I will agree completely that training methods have made today's basketball players far more athletically inclined than their counterparts of 40 years ago, but the players' athleticism does not necessarily make the game better or worse. "Old school" basketball relied on positioning, movement without the ball, screens, and set plays. None of those elements have disappeared from the game today, but the element of individual play by the "superstars", creating one's own scoring opportunities, having most of the plays run for your benefit, and the like, has changed the game. The more successful teams still stick to the basics while offering more than one or two threats. Basketball is more fun to watch when 5 players are involved than it is when 4 clear the floor on one side while the star goes one-on-one. That's playground ball, and to me, at least, just a bit boring.

posted by Howard_T at 02:36 PM on March 15, 2008

Thanks for a great post lilnemo. I'm not a basketball fan in any way, so I usually just skip those posts, but that headline kind of grabbed me. What a tragic story that is! Many of us consider the potential of serious injury when we talk about football or hockey, but not with baskeball. It really reminds one of how quickly life and livelyhood can be taken away in a freakish accident.

posted by tahoemoj at 02:55 PM on March 15, 2008

My rant was not about the actual structure of the game itself. I think that is there and will never change. My argument is basically pointed toward the fundementals of the game. Shooting, rebounding defensive and offensive play etc... As I pointed out in my first responce, a team had the chance to beat the #1 team in the country Saturday and couldn't get over the hump because they missed EVERY free throw going down the stretch. What is ironic about that game is that NC couldn't hit a free throw either but it didn't matter because VT was already behind and because of missed free throws couldn't catch up. I heard an announcer say they shot 100 throws daily and the other announcer said they didn't shoot enough in a practice game situation, thats exactly right. It all goes back to poor coaching.

posted by sportnut at 09:00 AM on March 17, 2008

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