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.
Tisdale died about 8 a.m. Friday at St. John Medical Center in Tulsa, hospital spokeswoman Joy McGill said.
After three years at Oklahoma, the 6-foot-9 Tulsa native spent 12 seasons in the NBA with the Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns, then became an award-winning jazz musician, with several of his albums making the top 10 on the Billboard charts.
The famously upbeat Tisdale first learned he had cancerous cyst below his right knee after he broke his leg in a fall at his home in Los Angeles on Feb. 8, 2007. He said then he was fortunate to have discovered the cancer at an early stage.
“Nothing can change me,” Tisdale told The Associated Press last June. “You go through things. You don’t change because things come in your life. You get better because things come in your life.”
His leg was amputated last August and a prosthetic leg that he wore was crimson, one of the colors of his beloved Oklahoma Sooners. He made a handful of public appearances in recent weeks, including on April 7 at an Oklahoma City Thunder game, at which he received the team’s Community Hero Award.
Also within the past month, Tisdale was honored in a ceremony at the Greenwood Cultural Center in his hometown and presented with the Legacy Award. During the ceremony, he spoke about his fight with cancer, saying “In my mind, I’ve beaten it.”
Last month, Tisdale also learned he had been chosen for induction into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.
In 1983, Tisdale became the first freshman to make The Associated Press’ first-team All-America list, an honor he received again in 1984 and 1985. He averaged 25.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game during his three seasons with the Sooners, earning Big Eight Conference player of the year after 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-throw makes and attempts.
In 1997, he became the first Oklahoma player in any sport to have his jersey number retired. Two years ago, then-freshman Blake Griffin asked Tisdale for permission to wear No. 23, which Tisdale granted. Griffin went on to become the consensus national player of the year this past season as a sophomore.
Tisdale also played on the U.S. team that won the gold medal in the 1984 Olympic Games. He went on to average 15.3 points per game during his pro career.
Tisdale’s death was announced on the Oklahoma Senate floor Friday by Senate Majority Leader Todd Lamb, who led the chamber in prayer.
“Whether you’re a Cowboy or a Sooner, Oklahoma has lost a great ambassador,” Lamb said. “He was a gifted musician, a gifted athlete and he just wore that well wherever he went.”
Tisdale is survived by his wife, Regina, and four children.
Watch a Clip About Wayman Tisdale’s Struggle With Cancer