Sooner Legends: Wayman Tisdale—Quite Possibly the Greatest Sooner Ever

J. Robert ByromCorrespondent IMay 19, 2009

Many college freshman phenoms over the past decade want to wear the No. 23.

This was the case with OU's McDonald's All-American Blake Griffin when he arrived on campus in 2008.  What was different though, was it was not Michael Jordan that made Griffin want the number so badly; it was Oklahoma Sooners' Mr. Basketball Wayman Tisdale.

The number was retired but Tisdale, in one of his many acts of humility for a man that was universally talented in almost everything he ever did, allowed Griffin to wear it without a second thought.

Tisdale was born in Forth Worth, Texas but raised in Tulsa where his father was a renowned pastor. Upon his father's death, the city of Tulsa renamed an expressway after him. 

Growing up, Wayman was never too interested in basketball, but that changed in eighth grade when he had grown to the point were he could dunk. The ability to dunk changed the game for Tisdale and Tisdale forever changed the game of basketball for the perennial football powerhouse, the University of Oklahoma.

After Graduating from Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, OK, he received a scholarship from Billy Tubbs to play basketball where he immediately became a star averaging a double-double his first season, 1983 and again in 1985, his final season.  

In 1984, he was .3 rebounds per game away from averaging another double-double, but made up for it by helping the U.S Olympic Basketball Team win a gold medal in one of the final Olympiads before pro players were allowed to compete for the U.S.

He still leads OU in many statistical categories including scoring and rebounds and was a three-time all-American making the team in all three of his college seasons. In 1985, he was drafted to the Indiana Pacers as the second overall pick. He spent a total of 12-years in the NBA before retiring in 1997.

OU celebrated the end of his basketball career by making him the first Sooner in any sport to have their number retired.

After retirement, Tisdale turned to his self-described first  He recorded eight albums as a jazz guitarist and many broke the billboard top ten jazz albums, including a No. 1 album with the contemporary jazz album Face to Face in 2001.

Tisdale followed his father's footsteps in being a very giving man. He made many donations of both his time and money throughout his life and never seemed to see it as a sacrifice in any form. 

He truly had an electric smile that could warm a room.

In March 2007, he was diagnosed with cancer in his knee, osteosarcoma. In Aug. 2008, he lost his leg but seemed to be doing well, making plenty of public appearances and giving interviews to various media; thus, his death on May 15, 2009 was an immense shock to all his fans. 

When you look at Tisdale's life, it is rare to see someone who was so successful in so many areas: athletically, artistically, professionally, personally, and spiritually. It is this immense amount of success in so many facets of life that make him...quite possibly, the greatest Sooner ever.

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