When Wayman Tisdale was acquired by the Kings from the Pacers in 1989, I was 12 years old. Over the next five years, he quickly became my favorite basketball player. He would have been my hero, hands down, had it not been for a guy named Joe playing for my favorite football team during those same years.
But Wayman's story began long before he came to play for the Kings and became my favorite player.
The son of a pastor, Tisdale was born on June 9, 1964, in Fort Worth, Texas. Surprisingly enough for those of us who loved him for his forward and center play, basketball was not his first love; as a matter of fact, Wayman did not even like the sport until he learned how to dunk in the eighth grade.
Tisdale himself said many times that music was his "first love."
An oft-told anecdote from his college career was that Wayman's coach at the University of Oklahoma, Billy Tubbs, moved the time of Sunday practices to later in the day to allow his young star to perform music at his father's church in the mornings.
Tisdale's performance on the court justified the coach's accommodations. He became a three-time Big Eight Player of the Year for the Sooners, and in his three years at the school, he scored 2,661 points, had 209 blocks, and grabbed 1,048 rebounds.
Although he did not stay for his senior season, Tisdale is still first in University of Oklahoma history in points, points per game, rebounds, free throws attempted, and free throws made. The Sooner standout finished his college career as the Big Eight's all-time leading scorer, and for his accomplishments, Tisdale was elected to the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.
The Indiana Pacers picked Tisdale second overall in the 1985 NBA Draft. In hindsight, his professional career was overshadowed by his years as a Sooner, though he did put up impressive numbers in the NBA. In his best year, 1989-90, he averaged 22.3 points and 7.5 boards per game for the Kings.
But eventually, Tisdale's love of music won out. In 1997, he retired from the NBA to put all of his focus towards his music.
Luckily for me, I am a big jazz fan and was thus able to continue following one of my favorite people.
Predominantly playing bass, Tisdale released eight albums. His 2001 release Face to Face hit No. 1 on Billboard's Contemporary Jazz chart. In addition to all of his other accolades, in 2002 Wayman was awarded the Legacy Tribute Award by Oklahoma's Jazz Hall of Fame.
On Feb. 8, 2007, things took a traumatic and unexpected turn for the worse. Tisdale fell in his home, breaking his leg. During treatment for the injury, it was found the great athlete and musician had osteosarcoma, or cancer in his knee.
By August of the same year, the cancer led to the necessity of amputating a part of Tisdale's right leg. But the detection of the problem, extensive chemotherapy, and many other hardships related to the illness were unable to erase his room-warming smile. He continued to share his soul with his fans: His last album, Rebound, was both written and released after the diagnosis.
On May 15, 2009, Wayman Tisdale passed away. I can only imagine he was called home to be with the Lord he had served since his childhood.
Wayman is survived by his high school sweetheart and wife of 27 years, Regina, and his four children.
For all who followed and loved him, he lives on as an inspiration to share your soul through the gifts you have been given and to push on, even when circumstances do their best to deter you.
For me, he lives on as my favorite King.
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