MIAMI (AP) — Chauncey Billups wasn't familiar with the touching tale of friendship between Jack Twyman and Maurice Stokes.
After being selected the first winner of the NBA's Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award on Sunday, Billups was overcome with gratitude and humbled to be mentioned in the same sentence. The Los Angeles Clippers' veteran guard studied up on the back story in the last few days.
The award is named in honor, two players who broke into the league with the Rochester Royals in 1955. Stokes emerged as one of the league's bright young stars, but was paralyzed in an on-court accident in 1958.
Then just 23 and with a young family, Twyman became Stokes' legal guardian and watched over him for 12 years until Stokes died in 1970. In an era that still dealt with a harsh racial divide, Twyman, who is white, organized charity games to help pay the medical bills for Stokes, who is black. The Twyman family would also have him over for Sunday dinners with the family.
"For him to make that sacrifice, it's unbelievable and the utmost sacrifice," Billups said before the Miami Heat hosted the San Antonio Spurs in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. "So for my name to be mentioned with his and anybody else going forward to be mentioned with his, I really don't feel worthy, to be honest with you. It's kind of embarrassing. I do feel like I'm a good teammate, but I haven't had to make that sacrifice.
Twyman was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1983 and died last year.
"My dad looked at his relationship with his teammate very simply as he said in an interview, 'Maurice was on his own, something had to be done, and somebody had to do it. I was the only one that was there, so I became that someone,'" Twyman's son, Jay Twyman, said.
Commissioner David Stern pushed for the birth of the award as a way to educate younger players who were born years later about one of the league's most inspirational stories.
"It just dawned on us that this was a story worth retelling," Stern said. "Because it was so compassionate and so very much at the essence, we'd like to think, of one man caring for another."
The award is voted on by the players in the league and includes a statue depicting Twyman helping Stokes up off the court. Miami's Shane Battier finished second and New York's Jason Kidd finished third.
HARD TO TOP: Even after an impressive performance that allowed them to stun the Heat and win on the road in Game 1, point guard Tony Parker said the Spurs had a lot of areas to improve upon heading into Game 2.
Parker noted that the Spurs were beaten handily on the boards by LeBron James and the Heat. They also shot under 42 percent for the game and 30.4 percent from 3-point range — both well below their season averages — and, according to Parker, gave the Heat too many open jumpers on defense.
But there is one area that doesn't leave much for improvement, even in the perfectionist Parker's mind. The Spurs tied an NBA Finals record with just four turnovers in the game, including zero in the second half against a stingy Miami defense. Parker didn't turn it over one time.
"That's not going to happen again," Parker said. "I don't remember a game we only had four turnovers. But if we can keep it under 10, that's what we want. That's a realistic number. I don't think four is a realistic number."