May 15, 2009
Wayman Tisdale, an all-America basketball player at Oklahoma, a 12-year NBA veteran and noted jazz musician, died Friday of cancer. He was 44. Here's what they're saying out in the ether about the former Pacer, King and Sun ...
Reggie Miller, The Indianapolis Star: "Wayman, along with Herb Williams and Vern Fleming, made my transition from California to Indiana very easy my rookie year. He was the nicest man in the world with the biggest heart and an even bigger smile. I thank him for befriending me and showing me there is more to life than just basketball ..."
Brandon Gallawa, Talk Hoops: "Growing up a Kings' fan in the 80's pretty much meant that I cut my basketball teeth watching guys like Kenny Smith, Harold Pressley, Duane Causwell, Lionel Simmons and Mitch Richmond, but none of those guys could match my love of all things Tizzy. Tisdale was just the most fun guy to watch out of that group. He was such a smooth big man with his left-handed Tizzy Flip and sweet stroke, and I dreamt of being taller in hopes of emulating some of his game. But it was more than Tisdale's game that made Kings' fans fall in love with him. He seemed to understand that he was playing a game and loved every minute of it. Sure he was intense, competitive and put forth 100% effort all the time, but that didn't keep him from having a genuine ear-to-ear grin on his face whenever he did something great on the court. And we loved him for it."
Anna K. Clemmons, TrueHoop: "I spent four days with Wayman Tisdale in November of 2008. Since that week, I've thought of him often, including again last night while watching the season finale of 'Grey's Anatomy.' I'm not an avid watcher of the show but the cancer storyline with one of the characters coupled with another character's leg amputation immediately brought Wayman to mind. I thought about what a good person he is, how I was glad he's still okay and the good things he was probably doing at that very moment. Since meeting him, when I've found myself frustrated or impatient, the first phrase I think of is Wayman's: 'Don't ever give up. Until you take that last breath, you fight.' It may sound corny but his lesson was so inspiring and such a present reminder of the great things we are lucky to have in this world. And now, how quickly they can be taken away."
Jeff Goodman, FOX Sports: "My moment with Tisdale came a couple of decades ago when he was with the Indiana Pacers. I was in high school and did a phone interview with Tisdale while he was in his hotel room. I was probably 16 years old, but sounded about 12. At the end of the interview (if you can call it that with my humorous questions), he asked me if I was coming to the game that night. I told him I was — and he told me that he'd have some 'tennis shoes' for me after the game. So my dad, who didn't believe Tisdale was going to follow through on his promise, and I waited after the game on Causeway Street. Sure enough, Tisdale came walking out heading to the bus, I introduced myself and he pulled a pair of Size 15's (that now fit me) from his bag, signed them and proceeded to spend a few minutes talking to me. Something I'll never forget."
Chris Chase, The Dagger: "Blake Griffin wore No. 23 during his two years at Oklahoma, but only after he asked Wayman Tisdale for his permission. And just because Griffin will be the No. 1 overall pick in next month's NBA draft, don't think he won't always be No. 2 at OU to Tisdale. Tisdale was like David Thompson, Ralph Sampson and Christian Laettner in that he was most famous for his college exploits rather than anything NBA-related. That's both a function of college dominance and pro disappointment, but Tisdale would still be a legend in Norman even if he had a Hall of Fame NBA career. He was the likeable, smiling star on the bad-boy Sooners of the mid-'80s, earning Big Eight player of the year each of his three seasons at OU. He was also one of only 11 men to be named a three-time All-American, as well."
Sam Amick, Kings Blog: "On Nov. 1, 2005, in Oklahoma City, the accomplished jazz musician and beloved Oklahoma Sooner was asked to perform the national anthem for what was sure to be a powerful evening. Hurricane Katrina had moved the Hornets out of the Bayou, with the organization relocating into a city that already knew a thing or two about tragedy and was ecstatic about the team's new arrival. With the lights dimmed and the arena electric, Tisdale — who had saxophone accompaniment — picked up his bass guitar and met the moment. He carried the tune that came with no vocals, the performance a musical delight and just slow enough for the mood to build and no one wanting it to end. It was a special touch on a special night from someone who so many said was a special man."
Ben York, Deep Purple: "Part of what is so difficult to comprehend, is why the good guys like Wayman get this hideous disease. No one will ever know the true reason but we can certainly learn from how Wayman handled it. Just like on the basketball court, he lived his life with dignity, grace, honor, and integrity. I often find myself questioning the purpose and reason as to why these things happen to such good people. The truth of the matter is you have to play your cards how they were dealt, and through it all, keep on smiling."
Steve Sipple, Life In The Red: "Tisdale's smile was as memorable as his prowess on the court. His joy for life and the game he played always reminded me of Magic Johnson."
Tisdale is survived by his wife, four children and granddaughter.
He will be missed dearly.