Emeka Okafor, NBA Teammate of the Year?
The new honor is called the “Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award” and is named after Jack Twyman and Maurice Stokes. NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner writes:
“…the two became friends and, as it turned out, rookies together with the Cincinnati Royals in 1955-56.
Both became All-Stars, too, but the Royals were wrapping up a 33-39 season when Stokes fell during a game in Minneapolis. His head injury (post-traumatic encephalopathy) caused him to lapse into a coma days later and left him permanently paralyzed.
Stokes’ family couldn’t provide the care or money he needed, so Twyman took over as his legal guardian. It was Twyman who argued successfully for work-injury compensation to cover some of Stokes’ initial medical bills.
Twyman, while attending to his own family, spent hundreds of hours with Stokes, helping him regain small bits of his speech and limited mobility. Later, he took Stokes, in a wheelchair, to some of the benefit games. In 2004, after years of lobbying by Twyman, Stokes gained his enshrinement in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. Twyman, who was enshrined in 1983, died in 2012 at age 78.”
Does Okafor have a chance to win?
Here are the 12 announced finalists and their “accolades,” if you will:
Jerry Stackhouse, Nets: teamed with Andray Blatche, which is always a challenge; spawned web pixels by talking about perpetrating fights back in the day.
Luke Walton, Cavaliers: exists, has curly hair, probably smiles every once in a while, has a dad who says outrageous things sometimes.
Andre Igoudala, Nuggets: teamed with JaVale McGee, which is always a challenge; will likely opt-out of making $16-plus million for the Nuggets next season; called voting for the NBA All-Defense 1st and 2nd teams, performed by the coaches, which he did not make, “Politics as usual…“
Jarrett Jack, Warriors: made Golden State Warriors fans love him; would like to stay with the team, but will be a highly-pursued free agent and could bolt.
Roy Hibbert, Pacers: of media “mutherfuckers” and “no homo” fame.
Chauncey Billups, Clippers: goes to show that you don’t have to actually play to be a good teammate—Billups played 20 games with his teammates in 2011-12 and 22 this past season (plus six in the playoffs).
Shane Battier, Heat: dirty player; went to Duke; respectable, intelligent guy.
Roger Mason Jr., Hornets/Pelicans: always part of some “good guy” recognition because of his general community involvement and the ability to purse his lips with sass while wearing a suit on the red carpet; perhaps has been too loyal of a teammate to beleaguered NBPA executive director Billy Hunter.
Jason Kidd, Knicks: technically no longer a teammate, as he recently retired, which probably means that Kidd will receive the award.
Serge Ibaka, Thunder: all-defensive team member, but for the most part disappeared during the playoffs when his services were needed most in the absence of Russell Westbrook, especially seeing as the Thunder essentially chose to pay Ibaka and trade James Harden.
Manu Ginobili, Spurs: once knocked a flying bat out of mid-air on Halloween Night.
Emeka Okafor, Wizards: in February, with John Wall slumping, pouting, and complaining, Okafor stepped up to challenge Wall in the locker room. Ultimately, the third-year player, via the dressing-down by Okafor, gained some perspective, improved his attitude, and elevated his game. Also, Okafor is very likely to not early terminate a contract that will pay him $14.48 million next season. He’ll be a Wizard for next season and perhaps beyond.
Sure, Martell Webster might receive a lot of votes for the “best teammate” in Washington’s locker room this past season, but if Wall really makes a leap in his fourth year, the moment that teammate Emeka Okafor stepped into his life might be as or more important than any of the contributions from those listed above in 2012-13. At least to Wizards fans…