Wayman Tisdale dies at 44; three-time All-American basketball player at Oklahoma became a leading jazz musician

Wayman Tisdale, here playing for the Sacramento Kings in a 1994 game against the Houston Rockets, later became a leading contemporary jazz musician. Several of his albums made the charts.
(Bill Baptist / NBAE/Getty Images)
Associated Press

Wayman Tisdale, a three-time All-American at Oklahoma who played 12 seasons in the NBA and later became a leading contemporary jazz musician, died Friday. He was 44.

Tisdale died at St. John Medical Center in Tulsa after a two-year battle with cancer, hospital spokeswoman Joy McGill said.

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

After retiring from basketball, he became an award-winning bass guitarist, with several albums making the top 10 on the Billboard charts.

“He was obviously a great, great player, but Wayman as a person overshadowed that. He just lit up a room and was so positive,” said Billy Tubbs, who coached Tisdale with the Sooners.

“He was the nicest man in the world with the biggest heart and an even bigger smile. I thank him for befriending me and showing me there is more to life than just basketball,” said former Pacers star Reggie Miller, who played with Tisdale in the NBA.

Tisdale learned he had a cancerous cyst below his right knee after breaking his leg in a fall at his Los Angeles home on Feb. 8, 2007. He said then he was fortunate to have discovered the cancer early. His leg was amputated last August.

He made a handful of public appearances in recent weeks, including one April 7 at an Oklahoma City Thunder NBA game.

Last month, Tisdale was chosen for induction into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.

He was the first freshman to be a first-team All-American since freshmen were allowed to play again in the 1971-72 season. He was also one of 10 three-time All-Americans: The others were Oscar Robertson, Bill Walton, Lew Alcindor, Pete Maravich, Patrick Ewing, Tom Gola, Jerry Lucas, David Thompson and Ralph Sampson. Ewing and Tisdale were the last to accomplish the feat, from 1983 to 1985.

Tisdale averaged 25.6 points and 10.1 rebounds during his three seasons with the Sooners and was honored as Big Eight Conference player of the year each season.

He still holds Oklahoma’s career scoring record with 2,661 points and career rebounding record with 1,048. Tisdale also owns the school’s single-game scoring mark, a 61-point outing against Texas-San Antonio as a sophomore, along with career records in points per game, field goals and free throws.

Tisdale recorded eight albums as a contemporary jazz musician. He often wrote his own material, and his most recent album, “Rebound,” was inspired by his fight with cancer.

His “Way Up!” was released in July 2006 and spent four weeks as the No. 1 contemporary jazz album.

His hits included “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now,” “Can’t Hide Love” and “Don’t Take Your Love Away.”

Tisdale is survived by his wife, Regina, and four children.