The Edmond Sun

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May 15, 2009

Former Oklahoma great Tisdale dies at 44

OKLAHOMA CITY — Wherever Wayman Tisdale went, whatever he was doing, chances were he was smiling.

Tisdale was a three-time All-American at Oklahoma in the mid-1980s before playing a dozen years in the NBA and later becoming an accomplished jazz musician.

But those who knew Tisdale, who died Friday at a hospital in his hometown of Tulsa, recalled not only his professional gifts but a perpetually sunny outlook, even in the face of a two-year battle with cancer that took his life at 44.

"I don't know of any athlete at Oklahoma or any place else who was more loved by the fans who knew him than Wayman Tisdale," said Billy Tubbs, who coached Tisdale with the Sooners. "He was obviously, a great, great player, but Wayman as a person overshadowed that. He just lit up a room and was so positive."

Jeff Capel, the current Oklahoma coach, noted Tisdale's "incredible gift of making the people who came in contact with him feel incredibly special."

After three years at Oklahoma, Tisdale played in the NBA with the Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns. The 6-foot-9 forward, with a soft left-handed touch on the court, averaged 15.3 points for his career. He was on the U.S. team that won the gold medal in the 1984 Olympics.

Gov. Brad Henry attended Oklahoma at the same time Tisdale did and later appointed him to the state's Tourism Commission.

"Oklahoma has lost one of its most beloved sons," Henry said. "Wayman Tisdale was a hero both on and off the basketball court. ... Even in the most challenging of times, he had a smile for people, and he had the rare ability to make everyone around him smile. He was one of the most inspirational people I have ever known."

State senators paused and prayed Friday morning after learning of his death.

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  • Former Oklahoma great Tisdale dies at 44 Wayman Tisdale, a three-time All-American at Oklahoma who played 12 seasons in the NBA, has died after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 44.

    May 15, 2009