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Sooner great Wayman Tisdale wore a smile to the end

By John Helsley Modified: June 15, 2009 at 8:53 am •  Published: May 16, 2009
Wayman Tisdale kept delivering that big, broad, toothy smile.

Through the devastating news. Through the chemo and the pain and, eventually, the amputation of his right leg below the knee.

Always providing the bright side to his two-year battle with cancer — a battle lost Friday — Tisdale played his signature smile in a public display of courage and inspiration.

The Tulsa native, University of Oklahoma legend, NBA veteran and renowned jazz musician died Friday morning at St. John Medical Center in Tulsa. Few behind Tisdale’s tightest circle saw it coming, as he carried his smile and his fight out in public. He was 44.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Biglow Funeral Directors in Tulsa. A date and time for services have not been set.

"It’s a shock,” said former OU coach Billy Tubbs, who recruited and coached Tisdale. "I don’t know of any athlete at Oklahoma or any place else who was more beloved by the fans who knew him than Wayman Tisdale.

"He was obviously a great, great player. But Wayman as a person overshadowed that. He just lit up a room and was so positive.”

He stayed positive
Even as he neared the end. Tisdale attended OU basketball games. He sat down for interviews, freely sharing the details of his treatment and the amputation and his adjustment to getting around on a prosthetic leg. While the prognosis of cancer, especially the kind that wracked Tisdale, can be grim, Tisdale charged on with optimism.

As recently as April 7, he attended a Thunder game.

"I told myself, ‘Whatever this is, it ain’t gonna take me out,’” Tisdale said in an ESPN interview in November.

Each step of the way through what had to be a trying journey, Tisdale left an impression initiated with his calling card: that wide smile.

"Throughout it all, he always had that infectious smile,” OU basketball coach Jeff Capel said. "This is an incredibly sad day, as we have lost not only one of the greatest Sooners ever, but one of the all-time best people to walk the face of the Earth.”

Tisdale played three seasons at OU, becoming the first player in NCAA history to be named first-team All-America by The Associated Press for his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons, spanning 1983-85. He also was the Big Eight Player of the Year for each of those years.

Despite staying just three seasons at OU, before jumping to the NBA, he remains the school’s all-time leader in points and rebounds.

During an NBA career spent with the Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns, Tisdale averaged 15.3 points.

View/Sign the Guestbook Slideshow: Narrated by Berry Tramel has disabled the comments for this article.


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