`The Man' Fills Lloyd Noble
BY Dan O'Kane World Sports Writer
Feb 23, 1997
Wayman Tisdale and his No. 23.
World staff photo by Kelly Kerr
NORMAN -- It's been said that Alvan Adams built the Lloyd Noble Center but
Wayman Tisdale filled it.
No. 23 did it again Saturday.
The largest crowd ever to watch a basketball game at the Lloyd Noble Center (12,715)
saw the three-time All-American have his
number retired during halftime ceremonies of
OU's 80-64 victory over Oklahoma State.
It was the first-time OU had retired a player's number in any sport.
``When I heard that they were going to retire my number, it blew me away,'' said Tisdale, who last year was voted the greatest
player in the history of the Big Eight Conference. ``I thought I was just coming back for a
ceremony. And I thought they'd retired some
other guys numbers. It made me think,
`Wow.' It made me nervous.''
It was typical Tisdale.
The Tulsa native's infectious smile was
there just as it had been when
he was re-writing the OU record
books from 1982-85.
The overflow crowd gave the
current member of the Phoenix
Suns a standing ovation for a
minute. He thanked God, his
family, his Washington High
School coach, his former teammates (several were present),
and the OU fans. He thanked
them all for ``the best three
years of basketball of my life.''
Yet another ovation broke out.
``I think today's ceremonies
I'd put right up there with the
gold medal,'' Tisdale said, referring to one he received as a
member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic basketball team.
The push to retire Tisdale's
No. 23 came from current OU
coach Kelvin Sampson, who by
honoring Tisdale was fostering
the school's basketball tradition.
``Today put closure to a lot of
things,'' said Tisdale, who entered the NBA draft after his
junior season in 1985. ``Things
went by so fast. I didn't realize
when I was in college how
much impact I had. We were
having so much fun I didn't
know the impact I had.''
The list of his accomplishments are long. The most significant impact, however, was
what he meant to the OU program.
In his final two years, OU
was a combined 70-11, going
33-0 at home. The Sooners won
two conference championships
and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament
in his final season. It was the
farthest OU had gone in the
tournament since the 1947 Sooner team went to the Final Four.
``Some guys are great because
of the other players on their
team. And some players are so
great they raise their teammates to a higher level. Wayman Tisdale is that kind of
player,'' said Larry Brown, former Kansas head coach and
now of the NBA's Indiana Pacers.
Billy Tubbs, Tisdale's coach at
Oklahoma and current Texas
Christian coach, thought the decision to retire Tisdale's number
was much deserving.
``Not only was he a great
player, but also an ambassador
for the game in the Big Eight
Conference and across the country,'' said Tubbs, who was in
Las Vegas for the Horned Frogs
game with UNLV. ``His personality allowed fans to get close
to him and share in the success
that came to him and the Oklahoma program. Never before
have I had the opportunity to
coach one individual who did so
much for his hometown, his
school, his basketball program
or his conference. He will always be a member of my immediate family.
``There are many reasons why
Wayman Tisdale was voted as
the best player ever in the Big
Eight Conference, however, the
one that stands out most is that
Darryl Kennedy, teammate of
Tisdale's, thought the honor was
timely and necessary.
``He deserves it,'' said Kennedy, who lives in Oklahoma City.
``But it also stirs up memories
of what we've done here. It will
teach some of these young guys
what it is like to be a Sooner.''
Those who played against him
also think the most prolific
scorer in OU history is worthy
of having his number retired.
``He always played great
against us,'' said Oral Roberts
coach Bill Self, who played
against Tisdale's OU teams
from 1983-85. ``Offensively,
there's no question he was the
greatest player in the history of
the Big Eight. He was the
In fact, that's what public address announcer Mike Treps often referred to Tisdale as during that era. It would start off
with ``That was Wayman,'' and
then he'd shorten it to ``Wayman,'' and finally ``The Man.''
``Alvan Adams was so good
and without him the Lloyd Noble Center would never have
been built, but Wayman was so
valuable to the program,'' Treps
said. ``Without him, the program
would never have approached
the level it has. We're still receiving dividends from him.''
Some speculate that a player
of Tisdale's abilities today
would never make it three
years as an All-American. The
lure of the big money from the
NBA is too great, especially
considering the money high
school kids have received without ever playing college ball.
``Times change,'' Tisdale said,
during a 10-minute news conference held during halftime of
OU's 80-64 victory over Oklahoma State. ``Look at ESPN and
how different it is. It's not the
same as it is now. No telling
what I'd do. But I probably
would've stayed three years. I
had opportunities to come out
after my sophomore year.''