Former All-American basketball player at Oklahoma,
NBA great and accomplished jazz musician, Wayman Tisdale, died Friday, May 15,
2009 at the age of 44 after a two year battle with cancer.
Reaching the heights of success in two worlds is a feat that few people can accomplish while keeping a level head and
staying true to themselves. Wayman Tisdale had reached that level and affirmed his position in the big leagues of jazz with the talent and heart to back him up. Tisdale, a former Phoenix Suns forward and 12-year NBA veteran, had traded in his hi-tops and hoops jersey for a life in recording studios and smoky jazz clubs.
was in a unique genre of music that is much more technically demanding than the different rigors required in rap. With jazz, particularly concerning the legendary scrutiny among bass players, if you don't have what it takes to play with the big boys, you get sent back to the minors. Overproduction or hired studio guns can't cover your back if you can't play the instrument and win over a crowd. Tisdale's seriousness, deep musical ability and direction
had placed him far above any other sports star turned musician.
"I think I'm succeeding where others have not because music fans can hear my sincerity," said Tisdale. "It's me playing the songs, not somebody else. I've been given a talent from above and I try to reflect that in how I present myself."
"My dad bought me a guitar as a gift when I was a little kid," said Tisdale. "He wanted one of his three sons to play music for him. I fooled around with it and started learning to play." Wayman also started to do something else that would profoundly impact the course of his life. He shot up over 24 inches in height and began to hear the call of the basketball courts.
"When I grew a couple of feet taller in that time, everybody wanted me to play basketball," said Tisdale. "It really took off in junior high. I didn't have as much time for music then, but I never left one for the other."
Basketball was his first love with music coming in a close second. The 12 years in the NBA that Wayman Tisdale left behind are by no means average even by superstar standards. Before his pro career, he was the top high school basketball player in the nation. More than 200 colleges courted the young rising star.
"That was one of the most important times in my life," said Tisdale. "I had 250 colleges to pick from. It was a big decision. If I made the wrong choice, it could negatively affect the rest of my life."
The college he chose was right in his backyard – Oklahoma University. He went on to become the first player in NCAA
history to earn All-America First Team honors in his first three years and was the first player in OU history to have his jersey number
retired. He also earned a prime spot on the gold medal winning 1984 U.S. Olympic basketball team. He passed up his senior year of college play to enter the 1985 NBA draft and was taken by the Indiana Pacers in the second round just after Patrick Ewing. Four years later, he was traded to the Sacramento Kings where he spent five seasons.
Wayman Tisdale signed as a free agent with Phoenix in 1994 and helped them clinch the Pacific Division 94-95 title. That season also marked the beginning of his membership to an NBA team with a winning record. He went on to score his 12,000th career point the next season, one of only 40 active NBA players at that time to achieve that high mark. His passion and precision on the court made him one of the top "go to guys" in the NBA. When the Suns needed him to fill in for a team mate, he was there to do his job and make the plays.
Not long before he retired from pro ball, Wayman Tisdale started on his journey into professional music. Wayman and his Fifth Quarter band recorded "Power Forward," his 1995 debut album on Motown's MoJazz label. His talents and prowess on the court, however, were still stronger than his studio and performing skills. "On my first album, I was still unsure of myself as a musician," said Tisdale. "It literally took me hours to come up with a solo." His unsteady but impressive musical debut began to parallel his growth as an athlete. The old saying "practice makes perfect" was certainly true for him. "Power Forward" soared to #4 on Billboard's "Top Contemporary Jazz" chart.
The more he performed and recorded, the stronger the music became, just as in basketball. The following year, Tisdale and Fifth Quarter released "In The Zone," which remained on the Billboard chart for 30 weeks and climbed into the top ten. "My second record is where I stepped it up and started to grow as a musician," said Tisdale. "I was starting to see that every time I played for a crowd or made a record, I was getting better and better."
As his music side-career became less of a hobby and more of his professional life and future, his two loves began to merge. That merging became evident in his basketball-flavored album titles, ball playing allusions and in the spoken word interludes on "In The Zone." Those were all signs that a profound new direction was coming down Wayman Tisdale's road.
"Decisions," Tisdale's major label debut, found him at a professional and personal crossroads. It wasn't like the famed crossroads traversed by blues legend Robert Johnson where he made a deal with the devil on a dusty and deserted country lane. Tisdale's crossroads was not such a sinister pact, but a life altering personal choice. His passion for music was surpassing his love for basketball. Wayman Tisdale knew what he had to do. As he prepared to make one of the toughest decisions in his life, he lost his rock-solid role model and #1 fan. Wayman's father. Rev. Louis Tisdale passed away unexpectedly at 74 years old on March 28, 1997.
"My father lived his life by example," said Tisdale. "He always stuck by us and showed us a lot of love. I had 33 years with him and I miss him a lot. It's a great feeling to know he loved me and I'm sure he's smiling on me."
Although he was the baby out of six children, Wayman ended up towering over his siblings. The one thing they did share in equal measure was the inner strength and moral values instilled by their parents. Tisdale says his strong family upbringing is the reason why he has managed to avoid the pitfalls in sports and music. While some of his NBA cohorts were busy gaining "bad boy" reputations for their antics on and off the court, Tisdale was content to do his job and play his part in supporting the team. He has brought that same quiet dedication to his life and music.
"All I do goes back to family," said Tisdale. "I had a good upbringing and great parents. By no means am I an angel, but I have avoided those controversial things in sports and music because of my beliefs and trust in God."
After his father's untimely passing, Wayman Tisdale felt it was time to devote himself fully to his music. Where he previously had his father to lean on for all the big and small choices in his life, Wayman had to make this one on his own. He retired from the NBA and made a conscious effort to focus more on the crafting of the songs for his third and pivotal album.
"I spent more time and energy focusing on the sounds and style of each song. I've found out who I am as a bassist and vocalist and I'm growing more comfortable as a performer. My level of personal satisfaction is higher now," said Tisdale. "When I can get people to sing along and dance or hum and tap their feet, it is incredibly gratifying. That's even better than a turn around jumper."
"In everyone's life, there are many times when decisions are to be made, whether job related or real life situations. Our lives revolve around choices; hopefully the correct ones. I've been faced with major decisions since the age of 15, and with God's guidance, most of my decisions have been good ones. I have decided to enter the next phase of my life. My prayer and goal is for this career to be on the next level.''
"I am very conscious not to take credit for what I do," said Tisdale. "It is all rooted in family and grounded firmly in God. I had great parents that helped show me the way and I knew everything would turn out alright. From being the #1 basketball player in the nation in high school to a gold medal in the Olympics and both my professional careers, God is smiling on me."
Hit songs include --
- Let's Do It Again
- Way Up!
- Throwin' It Down
- Get Down On It
Other notable songs include --
- In the Zone
- Breakfast With Tiffany
- Day Road Trip
- After the Game
- Summer Breeze
- African Prince
- Ain't No Lovin'
A jazz music artist is available for your next special
Born: in Texas
in Fort Worth
Jun 9, 1964
Died: May 15, 2009