"Way Up" Wayman Tisdale Dies at Age 44

Louis WallerContributor IMay 16, 2009

Back before the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Oklahoma City/New Orleans Hornets graced the basketball court in Oklahoma City, NBA games were few and far between. Oklahomans were relegated to exhibition basketball, and we were glad to have it.  

I can't remember the year, but I will never forget the player introductions.  Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson, and the rest of the Phoenix Suns took a back seat on this day as one of Oklahoma's favorite sons was introduced.

A local contest was held among the elementary students in the Oklahoma City school district.  The winners of this contest, each got to introduce a player.  The PA announcer would introduce each child along with their age and then he would coax them through the intro.  

The Suns were the home team this night and thus were the last to be introduced.  As Barkley, Johnson, and the rest of the Phoenix starters were intro'd, the crowd anticipation was growing.  As the last student stepped up to the mic, there was only one more player to introduce.

The PA announcer held the card with the player's name in front of the student, and tilted the microphone to his level.  The young man pushed the card away and grabbed the microphone out of the announcer's hand.

He stepped away from the announcer and said, "On your feet, Oklahoma City!  A 6'9" forward from the University of Oklahoma, No. 23 Wayman Tisdale!"

The crowd erupted.  Wayman ran out and picked up the little boy in one arm and held up the ubiquitous No. 1 with the other.

The ovation lasted for what seemed like 30 minutes.  Barkley and Johnson and the rest of the Suns were laughing and ribbing Tisdale for the adoration he received from the fans.

Wayman received this kind of reception everywhere he went.  Whether he was performing jazz before a crowd or talking to fans or friends one on one, that infectious smile was ever present.

It was Wayman's calling card, his beacon.  Today the beacon has gone and the world has lost a great ambassador of human kindness and inspiration. A man with strong convictions and great faith, Wayman Tisdale is on his "Way Up."