Achievement, grace: Big terms perfectly define Tisdale's life
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Thursday, May 21, 2009
5/21/09 at 4:09 AM
Read stories, look at photos and
watch videos about Wayman
Related stories: 'Time to Reflect'.
Big crowds seen at state funerals.
THERE IS no way to exactly quantify such a distinction, but it seems that Wayman Tisdale is the most admired figure in the history of this city.
Tisdale was a big, cool man who lived a big, cool life, and on Thursday he will be eulogized during the most heavily attended funeral ever conducted in Tulsa.
The BOK Center, Tulsa's gleaming centerpiece, is transformed into Oklahoma's largest church during the 11 a.m. funeral service.
"The city of Tulsa and the state of Oklahoma gave Wayman his roses before he ever left this world," said William Tisdale, Wayman's brother and former basketball teammate both at Booker T. Washington High School and the University of Oklahoma. "We anticipate a great turnout from a great state and a great city."
More than 10,000 mourners are expected to attend what is billed as a "celebration" of Tisdale's life.
The eulogy will be delivered by another Tisdale brother — the Rev. Weldon Tisdale, pastor of the Friendship Church.
There will be fantastic music and moving testimony.
There will be countless references to Wayman's sweet nature and smile, his athletic prowess and his musical talent, but it's going to be a tough experience for those in the building.
The finality of it all will be heartbreaking. The state's greatest basketball player — a three-time All-American at OU, an Olympic gold medalist, a 12-year NBA forward — is gone at the age of 44.
On Wednesday at the Friendship church, the public viewing of Tisdale's open casket attracted more than 2,000 people. On Wednesday night, more than 1,300 squeezed into the church for a "Time to Reflect" service. Several hundred people were unable to enter the filled-to-capacity church, so they had their own fellowship outside, on the Friendship grounds.
On April 16, when Tisdale received the Greenwood Cultural Center's Legacy Award, I spoke briefly with him. He was confined to a wheelchair, but one day later, he would perform in Memphis, Tenn., on the first stop of a national concert tour.
My question: "Are you fighting cancer or have you beaten cancer?"
Tisdale's response: "I've beaten it. In my mind, I've beaten it."
Twenty-nine days later, he died at St. John Medical Center. There were complications related to the bone cancer that last year necessitated the amputation of his right leg, just above the knee.
My most recent actual conversation with Tisdale occurred Dec. 7 at the BOK Center, when the OU basketball team beat the University of Tulsa. Tisdale talked about the dominance of Blake Griffin, about the arena being a sensational performance venue and about the Booker T. football team having captured the state title.
Tisdale was elaborative on those subjects, but when asked about his own health, he cut it short: "I'm good. I'm OK."
He didn't seem to feel well, but warmly received every person who approached with a greeting or autograph request.
When you are good to people over the course of an entire life, as Tisdale is said to have been, then your passing is mourned on a national basis. Your funeral takes place in an 18,000-seat room.
Tisdale's passing not only leaves a void in the sports world, but in the jazz community. When he is praised as having been a master musician, it is absolutely justified. He was as good on the bass guitar as he was at OU's Lloyd Noble Center, where he became and remains the Sooners' career leader in scoring and rebounds.
A lot of athletes dabble in musical endeavors (typically in vocals, and typically with embarrassing results). Tisdale was the exception — a brilliant player and bandleader who recorded eight albums, each of which were in the Top 10 on Billboard's contemporary jazz chart. On three occasions — with "Face to Face" in 2001, "Way Up!" in 2006 and "Rebound" last year — a Tisdale album was No. 1 on the Billboard chart.
Tisdale and his band created smooth, melodic sounds that compelled listeners to dance. A Wayman Tisdale jam never failed to satisfy.
If you have any interest whatsoever in music, check out the Tisdale-Toby Keith collaboration on "Never Gonna Give You Up," a track from "Rebound." It's a remarkably well-done cover of an old Barry White tune.
Tisdale's recordings stand forever as the soundtrack to a life defined by achievement and grace.
Wayman Tisdale, 44, died Friday
after a two-year battle with
cancer. He was a basketball star
and renowned jazz musician. He
is survived by:
- His mother, Deborah Tisdale
- His wife, Regina
- His siblings: Brenda Collins,
Larry Tisdale, Dannie Tisdale,
Weldon Tisdale, William Tisdale
- His four children: Danielle, Tiffany,
Wayman L. II, and Gabrielle
- His granddaughter, Bailey
The casket of Wayman Tisdale
will be transported to the BOK Center,
site of Thursday’s 11 a.m. funeral
service, by a horse-drawn carriage.
At about 9:45 a.m. Thursday, the 3-mile procession will begin at the
Keith D. Biglow Funeral Directors building, 1414 N. Norfolk Ave., and continue
west on Pine Street to Denver Avenue. The procession then will turn
south on Denver and end at the BOK Center, 200 S. Denver Ave.
Family requests donations go to his foundation
in lieu of flowers,
be made to the
help raise funds
who need prosthetics.
Donations may be made to:
Wayman Tisdale Foundation
c/o Paul Samuels
2200 S. Utica Place, Suite 500
Tulsa, OK 74114
(918) 582-3211 or (800) 877-8651
Cards and letters can be sent to:
Regina K. Tisdale
c/o Friendship Church
1709 N. Madison Ave.
Tulsa, OK 74106
Celebration of life
8 a.m.: BOK Center doors open.
10:30 a.m.: Tisdale’s jazz band will
perform a tribute at the BOK Center.
11 a.m.: “Wayman Tisdale: Celebration
of Life” — The Tisdale funeral,
BOK Center. Open to the public.
7 p.m.: Benefit concert. Oklahoma
Jazz Hall of Fame, 111 e. First St.,
Tulsa. Tisdale’s band and other
musicians to perform. Admission
is $10, and all proceeds benefit the
Wayman Tisdale Foundation.
The musicians and choir perform inside Friendship Church during Wednesday night's memorial service for Wayman Tisdale. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
Mourners fill the sanctuary inside Friendship Church, where a memorial service was held Wednesday for Wayman Tisdale who died last week. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World