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A Decade of Pain and Progress


Ten years ago last week Maurice Stokes was an All-Star pro basketball player, leading his Cincinnati team in assists and rebounds and one of the top scorers in the NBA. Then, several days after a collision in a game, he collapsed from a condition later diagnosed as posttraumatic encephalopathy. For a long time he was paralyzed, unable to speak and close to death. Even three years later (inset photograph, left), after the almost unbearable pain of constant, immense effort, he still required the assistance of steel braces and strong hands to remain upright for a few seconds. Throughout his ordeal his mind has been clear and his sense of humor intact, and he has been sustained both by the belief that his struggle was serving a useful, inspirational purpose for others and by the support of former teammate Jack Twyman, who became his legal guardian, and friends like Oscar Robertson. Today, at Cincinnati's Good Samaritan Hospital, Stokes "has improved 500%," says Twyman. "There's 1,000% to go, but he'll get out of here one day." As Maurice continues his demanding therapy (left) Twyman raises the money to help pay for it.

After a visit with Twyman and Robertson (top) Stokes laboriously types a letter during an occupational-therapy session (left) and then fingers taped to brush, applies stain to a piece of furniture.