Tisdale succumbs to cancer
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Saturday, May 16, 2009
5/16/09 at 3:57 AM
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A look back at his basketball career:
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Remembering Wayman: Friends, coaches,
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man who had a smile for everyone.
When asked to recount highlights of his time with Wayman Tisdale, Billy Tubbs replied, "You don't have enough space in the paper for all of the great memories."
"I thought I was prepared for this, but you never really are," said Tubbs, who coached Tisdale at the University of Oklahoma in 1982-85. "We knew the prognosis wasn't good, but Wayman is so positive and fought such a courageous fight. It's such a devastating loss. I'll always remember his great smile."
The 44-year-old Tisdale, the most accomplished basketball player in state history, died Friday morning at St. John Medical Center. He had battled osteosarcoma — bone cancer — for two years.
A 6-foot-9 left-hander, he was a Parade All-American and state champion at Booker T. Washington High School, a three-time All-American at OU and a member of the gold medal-winning 1984 U.S. Olympic basketball team. After a 12-year run in the National Basketball Association, he was a critically acclaimed jazz musician.
Services are pending with the Keith D. Biglow Funeral Home. Tisdale is survived by his wife, Regina, four children and one granddaughter.
He was the son of the Rev. L.L. and Deborah Tisdale and the youngest of their six children. The Tisdale name has been locally prominent for decades. After the elder Tisdale died in 1997, the Osage Expressway in north Tulsa was given a new name — the L.L. Tisdale Parkway.
In Los Angeles on Feb. 8, 2007, Wayman Tisdale suffered a broken leg while descending a flight of stairs. During treatment, doctors discovered a malignant mass immediately below his right knee. In August, his leg was amputated just above the knee. Tisdale was fitted with a prosthetic leg and for several months walked with the assistance of a cane.
On April 16, when he attended a banquet to receive the Greenwood Cultural Center's Legacy Award, Tisdale was in a wheelchair. He expressed confidence that he had beaten cancer. That weekend, he performed concerts in Memphis, Tenn., and Panama City, Fla.
"Looking back on it, (the Legacy Award banquet) was really a funeral. I knew it at the time," Tubbs said. "It was a great event, and I'm glad Wayman got to hear so many people say so many good things about him."
Less than 48 hours before his death, Tisdale was in Oklahoma City to be sized for a new prosthetic leg.
Friends spoke as commonly of Tisdale's personality as they did of his basketball and musical talent.
"He was one of the most inspirational people I have ever known," Gov. Brad Henry said.
"We just feel that Wayman was an awesome person to know," said Frances Jordan, executive director of the Greenwood Cultural Center. "Wayman's legacy speaks for itself. He was such a strong, honest man."
"I'm not sure I've ever known anyone who had such a positive effect on people. Without question, Wayman is the most charismatic athlete I've ever known," said former OU radio play-by-play voice John Brooks, who saw all of Tisdale's 104 college games.
"Wayman changed Oklahoma basketball forever," said Kansas coach Bill Self, who competed against Tisdale while playing point guard at Oklahoma State. "He was the best player that the state has ever had. Watching Wayman play then was like watching LeBron James play now."
Tisdale remains OU's career leader in scoring and rebounding. In 1997, after he retired from an NBA career that included stints with the Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns, Tisdale became the first athlete in OU history to have his jersey (No. 23) retired.
Two years ago, Tisdale granted to Blake Griffin permission to wear No. 23, and Griffin wore it well. At the end of the 2008-09 season, Griffin was named the national player of the year.
Mike Mims was Tisdale's head coach at Booker T. Washington and an OU assistant during Tisdale's three seasons as a Sooner. While at OU, Mims said, Tisdale achieved rock-star status, "and that's putting it mildly."
Asked whether Tisdale should be regarded as the best player in Oklahoma basketball history, Mims replied, "I don't think there's anybody even close to Wayman. Not even close."
On Friday, Mims visited Tisdale's home and met with Tisdale's wife, mother and brother William.
Regina Tisdale, Mims reported, "is stunned and shocked and probably empty right now."
Musically, Wayman Tisdale was proficient on guitar and keyboards but was best known as a bass player. He recorded eight albums, and his 2001 release "Face to Face" rose to No. 1 on Billboard's contemporary jazz chart. His most recent release, "Rebound," was written and recorded after he had been diagnosed with cancer.
In a 2005 Rolling Stone interview, actor-vocalist Jamie Foxx said his dream band would include Tisdale on bass.
With Tisdale at the center position, the OU basketball team had a record of 84-20, with three NCAA Tournament appearances and two Big Eight championships.
"If God wants to build a basketball team, he has a great player now," Tubbs said. "And if he wants to build a band, he has a great bass player. Write a great story about him. He deserves it. Wayman Tisdale was a great man."
The Tisdale name extends beyond basketball in Tulsa
Several landmarks are
named for the patriarch of
the family, the late Rev. L.L. Tisdale.
The osage Expressway
was renamed “L.L. Tisdale
Parkway” in June 1997. The
parkway extends north from
Interstate 244 downtown.
The “L.L. Tisdale memorial,”
featuring a gazebo and
monument, is located near the
intersection of the parkway
and Pine Street.
Tisdale served as pastor of
Friendship Baptist Church for
21 years. He co-founded the
Christian ministers Alliance of
North Tulsa and was an active
leader with Tulsa Together, an
annual worship service aimed
at drawing together Christians
separated by race and
Wayman Tisdale bio
• Born June 9, 196 , in Fort Worth, Texas.
• An all-State performer at Booker T. Washington. averaged 18.8
points and 1 rebounds as a junior and led the Hornets to a state
title. as a senior, averaged 2 .7 points and 11.8 rebounds.
• At Oklahoma, he was a three-time first-team all-american. He
is the Sooners’ all-time leader in scoring and rebounds.
• Was a member of the gold-medal-winning U.S. Olympic basketball
team in 1984.
• Played 12 NBA seasons with Indiana (1985-89), Sacramento
(1989-9 ) and Phoenix (199 -97).
• As a musician, recorded eight albums, four of which were in the
Top 10 of Billboard Magazine’s contemporary jazz chart. His 2001
release, “Face to Face,” climbed to No. 1.
Bill Haisten 581-8397
Tulsa World file
Wayman Tisdale plays against Illinois State in the NCAA Tournament in 1985. He scored 29 points and had eight rebounds.Tulsa World file