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Sunday, May 17, 2009

RIP Wayman Tisdale

Wayman Tisdale was an amazing basketball player, always remembered in Wapella because he was truly ambidextrous, and the first NCAA player to make All-American 1st team as a Freshman. RIP Wayman.

Obituary Lifted from the AP

Wherever Wayman Tisdale went, whatever he was doing, chances were he was smiling.

Tisdale was a three-time All-American at Oklahoma in the mid-1980s before playing a dozen years in the NBA and later becoming an accomplished jazz musician.

But those who knew Tisdale, who died Friday at a hospital in his hometown of Tulsa, Okla., recalled not only his professional gifts but a perpetually sunny outlook, even in the face of a two-year battle with cancer that took his life at 44.

"I don't know of any athlete at Oklahoma or anyplace else who was more loved by the fans who knew him than Wayman Tisdale," said Billy Tubbs, who coached Tisdale with the Sooners. "He was obviously a great, great player, but Wayman as a person overshadowed that.

"He just lit up a room and was so positive."

After three seasons at Oklahoma, Tisdale played in the NBA with the Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns. The 6-foot-9 forward, with a soft left-handed touch on the court, averaged 15.3 points on 50.5 percent shooting for his career. He was on the U.S. team that won the gold medal in the 1984 Olympics.

Gov. Brad Henry attended Oklahoma at the same time as Tisdale and later appointed him to the state's Tourism Commission.

"Oklahoma has lost one of its most beloved sons," Henry said. "Wayman Tisdale was a hero both on and off the basketball court. ... Even in the most challenging of times, he had a smile for people, and he had the rare ability to make everyone around him smile. He was one of the most inspirational people I have ever known."

State senators paused and prayed Friday morning after learning of his death.

Tisdale learned he had a cancerous cyst below his right knee after breaking his leg in a fall at his home in Los Angeles on Feb. 8, 2007. He said he was fortunate to have discovered the cancer early.

"Nothing can change me," Tisdale told The Associated Press last year. "You go through things. You don't change because things come in your life. You get better because things come in your life."

His leg was amputated in August and a prosthetic leg he wore was crimson, one of Oklahoma's colors. He attended an Oklahoma City Thunder game April 7 and later that month was honored at the Greenwood Cultural Center in Tulsa.

During the ceremony, he spoke about his cancer, saying, "In my mind, I've beaten it."

He recently told Tulsa television station KTUL he had acute esophagitis, which limited his eating for about five weeks and led to significant weight loss. Among the causes of that condition are infections, medications, radiation therapy and systemic disease.

Last month, Tisdale was chosen for induction into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.

He was the first freshman to be a first-team All-American since freshmen were allowed to play again in the 1971-72 season. He was also among 10 three-time All-Americans.

"On the court, he was an offensive machine that could score with the best of them," said Dallas Mavericks president Donnie Nelson, an assistant on Tisdale's Suns teams. "Off the court, he was grounded in faith and family."

Tisdale played on an Olympic team that sailed to the gold medal in Los Angeles. The squad was coached by Bob Knight and featured the likes of Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Sam Perkins and Chris Mullin.

Perkins, a former Sonic, and Tisdale shared a love of music and became friends during the Olympics. Perkins later was the best man at Tisdale's wedding.

"That's a real friend who's got your back and would do just about anything for you," Perkins said. "That smile just gets you."

As a musician, Tisdale recorded eight albums. A bass guitarist who often wrote his own material, his most recent album, "Rebound," was inspired by his fight with cancer and included guest appearances by several artists, including saxophonist Dave Koz and country artist and fellow Oklahoma native Toby Keith.


Anonymous said...

Didn't we call Huey "Wayman" for a while because he could go either hand? bbd

sempleman said...

I remember Hank Cornley, Rick Lamb, et. al. at Illinois State giving Wayman and Okla St. all they could handle in the NCAA tournament. I'm thinking Wayman's bunch came out on top by something like 3 points. Those were the days of Redbird basketball!

JBP said...


I'll defer to your memory, as the only Sooner I ever knew was Tex Ritter's pooch, but wasn't Wayman Tisdale a Sooner, rather than Cowboy?


sempleman said...

You are correct, sir. In fact, after a little research I had it all wrong. ISU lost to the Sooners 75-69 in the second round of the Midwest regional in 1985. Oklahoma was the No. 1 seed in the region, while the Redbirds were No. 9 and had knocked off No. 8 Southern California in the first round. Lou Stefanovic was ISU's high scorere with 21 points, while Rickie Johnson had 14 (Lamb graduated after the 83 season and Cornley after 84).
Wayman led all scorers with 29 points, but the Sooners were denied a chance to advance to the final four when they were knocked off by No. 2 Memphis State, 63-61 in the elite eight.
What can I say, I was only 17 at the time!

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