May 21, 2009
Last Friday, I received the shocking news of the sudden death of my good friend, Wayman Tisdale. Tisdale played basketball for 3 years at Oklahoma University and 12 years in the N.B.A. (Indiana, Sacramento, and Phoenix).
Upon retiring from basketball, he went on to have a critically acclaimed music career as a jazz bassist. He recorded a total of 8 CDs beginning in 1995 (“Power Forward” on the Motown Label). His last CD, Rebound (2008), was written and released during his recovery from cancer. He was scheduled to be in the studio this week to work on his next CD.
I had known Wayman for many years. We first met when I was a student at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His father was pastor of a very prominent church there and many O.R.U. students attended his church.
Wayman was a tall, but not yet imposing figure. He played bass guitar for the church. His hands were huge. We called him “thunder thumbs” because of his hand size and the way he plucked his guitar. He was left handed, but always played a right handed bass (he turned the guitar upside down).
We lost contact with each other after I left O.R.U., but we reconnected several yeas ago at one of his concerts. It was one of the best concerts I have ever been to. Wayman was a wild and crazy guy and he acted the same when he was on stage. He was so wild that he made me look like an introvert (and that’s not easy to do)!
During my radio show last Saturday, I spent 30 minutes paying tribute to Wayman’s life with a good friend (and former teammate of Wayman’s), Spud Webb. You can listen to the tribute at: www.ustalknetwork.com.
In the midst of this tragedy, I am heartened by all the kind words expressed about Wayman and his life. From the governor of Oklahoma, teammates, the N.B.A., etc.
You can’t talk about Wayman without mentioning his smile! No matter how bad your day was or how bad you were feeling, when Wayman came around, you were going to end up smiling—if not laughing.
Wayman was born to be happy. He was born to make others happy. In August of last year, he had his right leg amputated above the knee. Just imagine, a professional athlete losing a leg. Wayman was 6’9” and 240 pounds and now needing help to get around. So, what does he do? Go to his website and watch the video for the answer (www.waymantisdale.com). This was typical Wayman! I work with a lot of professional athletes and all have said the same thing about Wayman—that he was a special person to handle his sickness like he did. Most of us would have become totally despondent in a similar situation.
Could it be that Wayman was born for such a time like this? In his death his spirit will live on, especially when we go through our personal trials and tribulations. Those who knew Wayman will be able to draw strength from his life.
Wayman played “Power Forward” and when he was “In The Zone” he made his best “Decisions.” After “Face to Face,” he “Presents 21 Days,” his first gospel CD. He proved to the industry that he had “Hang Time” when his sales went “Way Up!” In the last chapter of his life he showed that he could “Rebound” from his cancer diagnosis.
But, I am still having problems accepting that Wayman is gone so soon. I have pondered what would Wayman say or do. These are the words that popped into my head: “O, death where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? For death has been swallowed up in victory.”
Wayman, you indeed have won the ultimate game of life. You played your heart out. It’s OK, “It’s Alright,” cause you never gave up the fight. You have left us for a while, but you did leave us with the lasting image of your great big smile.
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C.-based political consulting/government affairs firm. You can listen to his radio show every Saturday evening from 7-9:00 p.m. Go to www.ustalknetwork.com to register and then click on host, and then click on his photo to join his group.