He Rose Up, Way Up: Remembering Wayman Tisdale

Michael Ielpi@ielpiCorrespondent IMay 19, 2009

19 Jan 1995:  Center Wayman Tisdale of the Phoenix Suns stands on the court before a game against the Portland Trailblazers.  The Suns won the game 122-115. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn  /Allsport

On Friday, it was reported that Wayman Tisdale, former college basketball all-American, NBA veteran, and jazz guitarist passed away at the age of 44.

He had a smile as big as Oklahoma, where Wayman Tisdale was from and the University he played college basketball for from 1983-1985. Tisdale was a three-time All-American at Oklahoma.

Tisdale was drafted second in the 1985 NBA Draft by the Indiana Pacers. Patrick Ewing was first. Tisdale was a solid NBA pro, but he was not a superstar that he was projected to be after college. 

He would spend four seasons with the Pacers before being traded to the Sacramento Kings. The Kings were the abyss of basketball in the years he played for them (1989-1994).

The Kings never won more than 29 games in any of the six seasons that Tisdale played for Sacramento. But, on a personal note; he would average 20 points and six rebounds a game in those years.

He would head to Phoenix in 1994. While the Suns were much more successful than the Kings; Tisdale was not a starter with the team. In a 12-year NBA career, Tisdale’s teams only made the playoffs four times. He only saw the second round once, with the Suns in 1995.

Despite some very good numbers, Tisdale never made the All-Star Game. He just did not have the luck of a great supporting cast. He played in an era before NBA games were widely televised, and without being in the playoffs, few outside of the fans of the teams he played for could know how much he meant to those teams. 

If I had to guess; I would say that Wayman Tisdale liked playing basketball, but he loved making music. 

In the 2007-08 NBA season, I had season tickets to the Nets. Sometimes, they would have mini-concerts at halftime, one of the acts happened to be Wayman Tisdale. Most of the crowd left their seats at halftime, but I wanted to stay and listen. I had heard about Wayman’s talent with the bass, but never really listened to anything by him.

He had played a song called, “Way Up”, and the song was a smooth as a finger roll to the hoop. Wayman was good at basketball, but he was even better at playing bass and being one of the forerunners in the up and coming jazz fusion genre. I immediately added quite a few more songs from Wayman Tisdale to my collection. He did not let me down. 

When I was walking out of the arena I noticed him in the lobby, and he was talking to a couple people, but I still had to say, “Wayman, you were great tonight.” He smiled and gave me a “thumbs up.” His smile was as big as Oklahoma. He looked like he was in picture perfect health.

A few months later it was reported that Wayman Tisdale had bone cancer. In August 2008, he had his right leg amputated. But, what would have stopped many, actually invigorated Tisdale. He made a new album called “Rebound” that received rave reviews.

Around that time, TNT’s Inside the NBA did an interview with Tisdale.  The video can be seen here.

If all athletes lived their lives like Wayman Tisdale; it is likely that covering sports would not be the tabloid mess that it is today. He would marry his high school sweetheart and have four children with her. He did not make the news for using drugs, going clubbing and throwing thousands of dollars down the drain.

While some will say that athletes are not made to be role models; you would have a tough time finding a better one in any walk of life. 

Wayman Tisdale left us way too soon. Do yourself a favor; take a listen to the music he left with us. Songs I recommend are “Way Up”, “Never, Never Gonna Give You Up”; this was a remake of the Barry White song with Toby Keith on vocals, and “Power Forward”.

I hope that Wayman Tisdale has made his Way Up to heaven.