Former Phoenix Suns forward Wayman Tisdale, known for his soft left-handed touch on the court and a wide smile off it, has died at age 44 after a two-year battle with cancer.
TULSA, Okla. — Former Phoenix Suns forward Wayman Tisdale, known for his soft left-handed touch on the court and a wide smile off it, has died at age 44 after a two-year battle with cancer.
Tisdale died Friday morning at St. John Medical Center in Tulsa, hospital spokeswoman Joy McGill said.
Tisdale was signed by the Suns as a free agent in 1994 and spent three seasons in Phoenix, averaging 9.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. He also played for the Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings during his 12-year NBA career, and was a three-time All-American for the University of Oklahoma.
"Like many, we will always remember his wonderful spirit and the permanent smile on his face that not even recent health struggles could diminish," Suns general manager Steve Kerr said.
Former Suns owner Jerry Colangelo said Tisdale was “a no-nonsense guy who had a great smile, temperament and disposition."
"You never had to worry about Wayman Tisdale. He was a gentleman and he represented himself the way you’d want all your players to represent a franchise. When we saw him at All-Star Weekend, even with his adversity, he had that big smile on his face. He will be missed, but he leaves the world a better place for the person he was.”
The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 15.3 points for his career, and was on the U.S. team that won the gold medal in the 1984 Olympics.
After basketball, he became an award-winning jazz musician, with several albums making the top 10 on the Billboard charts.
"Wayman Tisdale is one of the best people I have ever had the privilege of knowing," Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said in a statement. "He had an incredible gift of making the people who came in contact with him feel incredibly special."
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."
The famously upbeat Tisdale learned he had cancerous cyst below his right knee after breaking 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 early.
"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 one April 7 at an Oklahoma City Thunder game where he received the team's Community Hero Award.
Also within the past month, Tisdale was honored at the Greenwood Cultural Center in his hometown of Tulsa and presented with the Legacy Award. During the ceremony, he spoke about his cancer, saying "In my mind, I've beaten it."
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 1971-72. 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 1983-85.
Tisdale played on an Olympic team that sailed to the gold medal in Los Angeles, winning its game by 32 points. The squad was coached by Bob Knight and featured the likes of Ewing, Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins and Chris Mullin.
Tisdale averaged 25.6 points and 10.1 rebounds during his three seasons with the Sooners, earning 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.
"His basketball talent and accomplishments pale in comparison to the impact he had on the lives that he influenced by the way he lived his life, and the tremendous character he displayed in his fight with cancer," Capel said.
"Throughout it all, he always had that infectious smile. 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 this earth."
Tisdale is survived by his wife, Regina, and four children.