- Associated Press - Thursday, May 31, 2012

CINCINNATI (AP) - Basketball Hall of Famer Jack Twyman, one of the NBA’s top scorers in the 1950s who became the guardian to a paralyzed teammate, has died. He was 78.

Twyman died Wednesday at a Cincinnati hospice of complications from an aggressive form of blood cancer, his son, Jay Twyman said Thursday.

“He died peacefully with family members at his side,” said Twyman, of Rye, N.Y.

Jack Twyman played for the University of Cincinnati and spent 11 seasons in the NBA with the Rochester and Cincinnati Royals.

He averaged a career-high 31.2 points per game in the 1959-60 season, playing in six All-Star games.

In 1958, after teammate Maurice Stokes was left paralyzed after a head injury suffered during a game, Twyman became his guardian to help Stokes receive medical benefits.

Twyman later worked as a television analyst on NBA games. His most famous work as an announcer came in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA finals between the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers, when he stopped himself mid-sentence during the pre-game to announce that he saw injured New York center Willis Reed coming through the player tunnel. It had not been known whether Reed would be able to play because of an injured thigh muscle, but he went on to lead New York to a 113-99 victory.

Twyman scored 15,840 points in his career and was inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1983.

At the University of Cincinnati, Twyman led the Bearcats in scoring his sophomore through senior seasons (1952-55), finishing his career as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,598 points and 1,242 rebounds. Twyman, who was named an All-American in 1955 after averaging 24.6 points and 16.5 rebounds, is one of three Bearcats to have their jerseys retired.

“The Bearcat family lost one of our legends yesterday with the passing of Jack Twyman,” athletics director Whit Babcock said in a statement. “He was a true gentleman, a great man who loved UC.”

UC head coach Mick Cronin said Twyman was the first former player to greet him when he returned to Cincinnati six years ago and he appreciated his wisdom and kindness.

“He was a first-class man and obviously, one of the greatest to ever put on the Bearcats jersey,” Cronin said.

Geoff Petrie, president of basketball operations for the Sacramento Kings _ the team that traces its roots back to the Royals _ said Twyman “was one of the standard-bearers for the Royals during some of their exciting years in Cincinnati.”

“Jack will be missed but remembered by many for his contributions to the game and life,” Petrie said in a statement.

Twyman also left his mark on the NBA for the way he helped Stokes, who was a budding star in 1958. During the last game of that season, Stokes hit his head on the floor during a game. He later had a seizure, slipped into a coma and was left paralyzed.

In addition to becoming Stokes’ guardian, Twyman organized an exhibition game with NBA players to raise money for Stokes, who died in 1970. That game became an annual tradition to raise money for needy former players.

“He was a great man, a devoted husband and father and a tremendous grandfather,” Jay Twyman said.

“What he accomplished in his lifetime was really the equivalent of three lifetimes,” said Twyman, referring to his father’s success in basketball and business and his devotion to Stokes and other friends and family members.

Jack Twyman’s daughter, Lisa Bessone of Santa Fe, N.M., described her father as someone who was “larger than life and who always gave 110 percent to everything he did.”

“He believed every day was a gift, and that’s how he approached his life,” Bessone said.

A funeral Mass is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at St. Gertrude Church in the Cincinnati suburb of Madeira.

Twyman also is survived by his wife Carole, two other daughters and 14 grandchildren.

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