My perception of Wayman Tisdale has always been shaped by the basketball court.
I recall from my adolescence, starting to really get into watching college basketball, seeing Tisdale as a dynamic scoring machine at Oklahoma.
Did they even play anything but football at Oklahoma back in the days of Barry Switzer and the triple-option?
Well, as a matter of fact, they did, but it took Tisdale to put the Sooners on the map. Since then Oklahoma has been a frequent NCAA Tournament participant with a steady stream of talent. The latest is Blake Griffin, an almost certain NBA lottery pick who received Tisdale’s permission to wear his No. 23 for the Sooners this season.
Tisdale still lives in the memory as a college superstar and a fluid jump-shooter during a long NBA career.
His life after basketball is even more impressive.
Many ex-pros struggle to move beyond sports once their careers end. Just look at today’s headlines. A great defensive end for the Buffalo Bills’ Super Bowl teams, Bruce Smith was arrested for a DUI, again. Seemingly endless speculation and rumor surrounds Brett Favre and whether or not he will return again for another team in the twilight of his career.
Tisdale moved on in a positive direction with a passion.
He became known as an accomplished jazz musician.
He battled the cancer which eventually killed him, having a leg amputated in the process.
All the while, he kept an enormously positive attitude in public.
In a well-penned tribute by ESPN’s Mark Kreidler, the fact that Tisdale’s father was a minister is mentioned. For Tisdale his accomplishments were his testimony.
Kriedler wrote: “The Tulsa native had virtually no ego beyond his obvious love of the offensive game. He never shied from his religious nature (his father was a minister), yet he never beat anyone over the head about it. Tisdale believed quite completely that his most effective witness was his own life.”