On Friday, May 15, 2009, Wayman Tisdale passed away at the age of 44 after a courageous two year battle with bone cancer.
On the Court
Tisdale was selected 2nd overall in the 1985 NBA draft by the Indiana Pacers. His 12 year NBA career also included time with the Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns. During that time he averaged 15.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Tisdale was a reliable low post scorer and regarded as a great teammate and solid competitor. His best days were his early years with Sacramento. He was an excellent fit for former coach Dick Motta’s forward oriented offense.
The Oklahoma alum’s collegiate career is as impressive as it gets. Tisdale was a three time Big Eight Player of the Year and the first in college basketball history to be named first team all American in his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons. He left school for the NBA after his junior season and still holds Oklahoma’s record for all time points and rebounds. His college career was so profound that it propelled him into the College Basketball Hall of Fame 2009.
Off the Court
Tisdale’s story is one example of several important reasons I founded The Draft Review. It’s obviously vital to chronicle players’ careers with background information and statistics, yet I find it as equally important to understand who the players are on a personal level and how success or tragedy shaped their lives.
About two years ago I approached Tisdale for an interview. He politely responded by telling me that he wasn’t feeling well and he would be back in touch after things improved. It wasn’t until after this quick email exchange that I learned of Tisdale’s fight with cancer and the chemotherapy he had recent undergone. This brought back memories of a family member who had also undergone chemo and reminded me of the challenges involved in recovering from this difficult procedure.
In September 2008 Tisdale’s right leg was amputated after two attempts at chemotherapy failed. At that time TDR posted a video of the once majestic 6-9 forward, who was physically not the same, yet shined through with his engaging and passionate personality. Tisdale’s video message to fans was truly inspiring and ended with him in song as he strummed his guitar.
I remained hopeful for Tisdale and still looked forward to speaking with him, but the difficult memory of my relative kept me from contacting him again. It just didn’t seem appropriate at the time. After the amputation there was news of Tisdale’s attendance at an Oklahoma Thunder game and his later announcement of 21-date national concert tour, which stemmed from his successful post basketball career as a noted Contemporary Jazz musician with numerous record releases.
On the day of Tisdale’s death, it was actually my wife that called to give me the news. It seemed so abrupt and I was shocked, especially because I thought everything was going well for him. I shed some tears for Wayman Tisdale, not for the basketball player or jazz musician, but for the man that he was - young, inspiring, joyous, passionate, and full of hope.
The Draft Review remembers Wayman Tisdale.