Tisdale Captivated Fans with His Smile

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
FEBRUARY 22, 2012
 Wayman Tisdale
  Wayman Tisdale
With his ever-present infectious smile, Wayman Tisdale captivated fans on the basketball court, as a musician and throughout his battle with cancer.
Video Toby Keith Tribute to Tisdale | Photos Photo Gallery
 Basketball Accomplishments
 First college player named a first-team All-American  by the Associated Press in his freshman, sophomore  and junior seasons (1983-85)
 Three-time Big Eight Player of the Year (1983-85)
 Still holds OU's career records for points (2,661) and  rebounds (1,048) despite playing just three seasons
 Olympic gold medalist as a member of the 1984 USA  basketball team
 Second overall pick in the 1985 NBA Draft (Indiana)
 Averaged 15.3 points and 6.1 rebounds over 12 NBA  seasons with the Pacers, Kings and Suns
 Inducted posthumously into the National College  Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999
 Beyond Basketball
 Launched music career as a jazz bassist in 1995
 Recorded a total of eight albums including Face to  Face in 2001, which climbed all the way to No. 1 on  Billboard's contemporary jazz chart
 Awarded the Legacy Tribute Award by the Oklahoma  Jazz Hall of Fame in 2002
 Established the Wayman Tisdale Foundation in 2009  to raise funds for amputees needing help with the  prosthetic process
 Specialty Health Clinic on the OU-Tulsa campus was  named after Tisdale in 2009
NORMAN, Okla. -- It wasn't long ago when Regina Tisdale turned on her late husband's old phone.

She plugged it in. Then she smiled. Not surprised at all.

"1,500 contacts?" she said. "Who knows that many people? We jokingly told people that if you met Wayman, you felt like you knew him your whole life."

That's how a digital Rolodex fills up fast.

That's how it was with Wayman Tisdale, the most dynamic, decorated and demonstrative player to ever hit the court at Oklahoma.

And the most likely to pass along his phone number, too.

"I'd ask him about it all the time," Regina said. "I told him he didn't have to give out his personal number to everyone he met. But that's the way he was. If you met him once, it was like you knew him your whole life. You were his friend."

Perhaps no player did more for basketball at Oklahoma than Tisdale did and certainly no smile did more either.

As the University celebrates Black History Month this February with features on four Sooners who made an impact at Oklahoma, it's Tisdale's achievements that put him among the greatest to play here.

But it's the All-Star smile people will remember.

"Say that name to anyone and you'll get them to smile," said OU Athletic Director Joe Castiglione. "The legacy he left is much more than just sports."

The legacy is prolific, dotted with awards and honors like an Olympic Gold Medal in 1984, representing his country first and his University as well. There was the three All-American teams Tisdale made at OU, making the Sooners relevant again in basketball.

And then there was that smile.

"At first, people wanted to try and figure out if he was for real or just turning it on and off," Regina Tisdale said. "I was around him for more than 30 years. Everyone mentions that smile. He was a friend to anyone. He would talk to a wall, if it talked back, and he met no strangers.

"He had the best smile I have ever seen."

Regina Tisdale met Wayman Tisdale when the two were in high school, and in more than three decades alongside him, said she saw Wayman upset only twice -- once when his grandmother passed away and once when his father passed away.

But not when doctors discovered he had cancer in 2007 or when he lost part of his leg to the disease a year later. And not even in his last days before he died in 2009 at the age of 44.

"That says a lot," Regina said. "He just smiled and told me it was going to be OK. He never got down. It helped me seeing him fight and seeing his happiness."

That happiness was also seen in his three years at OU where he became, and still is, the school's all-time leading scorer, dominating opponents and charming the crowd. It was also seen, but not believed, when Tisdale played in the NBA for Indiana, Sacramento and Phoenix.

"I heard a fan heckling him in Sacramento," Regina said, remembering Tisdale's time with the Kings. "He was getting on him because he said he smiled too much and was having too much fun. I said, "Are you serious?'"

Tisdale was. And he was competitive, too.

"It was hard to get under his skin," said former Sooner teammate Darryl Kennedy. "He'd just smile and kill you with kindness. Never stay mad. And you couldn't stay mad at him and the coaches couldn't either. You'd just watch him and see what he could do and you'd smile right along with him."

That attitude also helped Tisdale achieve greatness in the music industry. Primarily a bass player, Tisdale recorded eight albums, starting in 1995. His 2001 album Face to Face made it to No. 1 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Chart.

Just another way to make people smile.

"Everyone always asked me if he was like that all the time," Regina said. "Absolutely. He gave a shot of energy to basketball at OU. But every day, as soon as he opened his eyes, he was laughing and joking. That's a big part of what people will remember."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
This is the third feature in a special four-part series as OU celebrates Black History Month.

Prentice Gautt Lee Roy Selmon Wayman Tisdale
Prentice Gautt
Gautt's impact is still felt at Oklahoma and beyond.
Lee Roy Selmon
As dominant as he was on the field, his legacy...
Wayman Tisdale
Tisdale captivated fans with his infectious smile.
Teresa (Ray) Turner
Turner continues to give back to student-athletes.




Sooner Sports Properties, LLC, is the multimedia rights holder for athletics at the University of Oklahoma.
Sooner Sports Properties is a joint venture of Learfield Communications and Tyler Media, LLC.


Sooner Sports Powered by FOX Sports is a multi-platform network that provides distribution of 1,000+ hours of Sooner sports programming annually on a variety of FOX Sports outlets, including FOX Sports Oklahoma, FOX Sports Southwest, and FOX College Sports.