Wayman Tisdale hiked up his black gym shorts and showed off his prosthetic right leg. His crimson and cream leg. The massive carbon fiber sleeve that fits over what remains of his leg is University of Oklahoma crimson. That familiar cream-colored interlocking OU adorns it, too.
"I used to wear it on my sleeve,” the former Sooner basketball great said. "Now I wear it on my leg.” Diagnosed early last year with bone cancer in his leg, Tisdale fought the disease for a year and a half before doctors determined the treatment hadn’t eliminated it. His leg was amputated just above his knee on Aug. 25 in hopes of eradicating the cancer. Less than two months later, Tisdale is walking with a prosthetic using only a cane for balance. He is doing after a month with his prosthetic what it takes most people six to nine months to achieve. "He’s a fighter,” said Scott Sabolich, owner of Scott Sabolich Prosthetics & Research. "That’s got a lot to do with it.” But as an athlete, Tisdale battled with his body, not against it. The athletic big man was long defined by what his body could do. Run. Jump. Dunk. Those physical gifts made him a star first at Tulsa Washington High School, then at OU, then in the NBA. His basketball career spanned almost two decades, carried by those lanky legs. "My body for so many years always responded,” Tisdale said. "I was the type of person that didn’t even take a lot of medicine. I can’t even remember the last time I was sick. "Then for this to happen ... when they first told me, I was like, ‘No, not me.’”
A shocking diagnosisThe cancer diagnosis was a shock as was the news that his leg needed to be amputated. Before the surgery, Tisdale had plenty of folks tell him how terrible it was that he had to lose his leg. But he realized that while others defined him by his physicality, he didn’t see his worth the same way. "The NBA didn’t make Wayman Tisdale who he was,” Tisdale said. "I was Wayman Tisdale before the NBA.