Good Morning POU!
As we go into the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament, I thought it would be most appropriate to feature one of the greatest college basketball players of all time who was also a fantastic jazz musician….the late great Wayman Tisdale.
Growing up, Wayman was not even interested in basketball. When older brothers Weldon and William played pickup games he usually quit before they finished, retreating to the family’s sandbox. However, Tisdale began taking to the sport in the eighth grade when he first learned to dunk.
He met his future wife Regina in April 1981 at church. They were juniors at different Tulsa high schools, and she did not know he was one of the most heavily-recruited basketball players in the country.
Tisdale called music his “first love”. Throughout his youth, and continuing through his college basketball career, he played bass guitar at his father’s church. Music and church were so important to Tisdale that after recruiting him to the University of Oklahoma, Sooners head coach Billy Tubbs changed the team’s practice schedule. He moved the team’s Sunday practice from the morning to the evening to allow Tisdale to play at morning services in his father’s church in Tulsa.
His father, Louis Tisdale, was a well-known pastor in Tulsa, Oklahoma, serving for 21 years as senior pastor of Friendship Church; After his father died in 1997, the former Osage Expressway in Tulsa was named L. L. Tisdale Parkway in his honor. Wayman’s older brother Weldon has been pastor of the church since 1997.
In March 2007 Tisdale underwent treatment for cancer in his knee (osteosarcoma), which was discovered after he fell down a flight of stairs in his home on February 8, and broke his leg. In May, Tisdale announced on his website that he was recovering from a procedure to remove the cyst, and expected to recover 100%. He and Regina agreed not to tell their children about his diagnosis until the fall of that year, when the entire family was together (their oldest daughter lives in Atlanta and their second-oldest was attending college at the time). However, the first round of chemotherapy was unsuccessful, leading to a second round.
As Tisdale recalled later, “The doctor had never given anyone chemo that was my size. They just calculated how much chemo to give me and said, ‘We hope it doesn’t mess up your kidneys. If it does, sorry.”
He drew on some of the challenges he faced during his basketball career to battle the disease, specifically recalling, “I had some coaches that literally didn’t want me to make it, and one in particular was Bobby Knight. At the time I frowned on that … I look at it today that had I not persevered through a lot of the stuff he put me through, I probably wouldn’t be here today. I thank God for that dude because he pushed me.”
In August 2008 Tisdale had part of his right leg amputated because of the bone cancer. On his web site, Tisdale said removing a portion of the leg would be the best way to ensure that the cancer would not return. In a video message at halftime of a September 28 Sooners’ football game, Tisdale affirmed he was doing well and that he was at peace following the operation. Shortly after the operation, he was fitted for a prosthesis. Scott Sabolich, the clinical director, said that in his 21-year career he had never created a prosthesis as large as the one he had to design for Tisdale. Sabolich noted that it typically takes a new amputee from three to six months to acclimate to a prosthesis, while it took Tisdale a month. He proved to be equally quick in learning to walk on his new limb; a physical therapist Tisdale worked with in Tulsa said that he was months ahead of a typical patient in that respect.
Tisdale’s experience led him to establish the Wayman Tisdale Foundation to raise funds to help amputees with the prosthetic process, which is not always covered by health insurance. In April 2009 Tisdale accepted an award from the Greenwood Cultural Center in Tulsa, then set off on a 21-date national concert tour.
Tisdale died on the morning of May 15, 2009, at St. John Medical Center in Tulsa, where his wife had taken him when he had trouble breathing. Tisdale’s agent described his death as a “great shock” and noted that Tisdale had been planning to go into the recording studio the following week for a project with jazz guitarist Norman Brown. Tisdale and his wife, Regina, had four children.