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All I Had Was God

Wayman Tisdale is fairly well-known.  Well-known as a former NBA basketball star.  Somewhat well-known as a jazz bass-guitarist.  And to those that know him, well-known for his big, infectious smile.  He’s also becoming more well-known as an inspiration to those afflicted and surviving the horrible disease of cancer.

Tisdale will tell you that his first love is music.  Though he’s never taken a lesson in his life, he was able to learn his musical craft by playing bass guitar in the Friendship Church where his father was the pastor.  Since retiring from the NBA in 1997, he’s recorded eight jazz albums and also collaborated with popular country music star Toby Keith.


He readily admits that his love for basketball didn’t take hold until he dunked for the first time in the eighth grade.  Playing pickup games with his older brothers, he would often quit and play in the sandbox instead.  However, his basketball skills took off once that first dunk was accomplished.  He went on to the University of Oklahoma and became a three-time All-American and, later, an Olympic gold-medalist.  He was drafted as the second overall pick by the Indiana Pacers in the 1985 NBA draft and would go on to spend the next twelve years playing for the Pacers, Sacramento Kings, and Phoenix Suns, finishing his career with a 15.3 points-per-game scoring average.

Then in February 2007, Tisdale fell and broke his leg.  The fall occurred in his Los Angeles home as he slipped while descending the stairs.  When he attempted to move, Tisdale says “it felt like someone swung a baseball bat and just shattered it.  I screamed like crazy and almost blacked out.”

The doctors at UCLA were curious as to how an athlete who had never had a broken bone in his entire career could so easily shatter his leg, so they ordered x-rays of every bone in his body and waited two months for the results.  When he traveled to his home in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for his children’s spring break, the doctors called to tell him the news that he had cancer.  “I told myself, whatever this is, it ain’t gonna take me out,” Tisdale says. “I never ran away from a war, never shied away from a player, so this isn’t gonna scare me away. I knew that God would take care of me.”

Friends tell of how they would call to offer support and to help him feel better.  Inevitably, Tisdale would make THEM feel better with his attitude and positive outlook.

nba_tisdale_300Tisdale underwent two rounds of chemotherapy  but to no avail.  Doctors decided that in order to save his life, he would have to have his leg amputated.  He now has a prosthetic leg, which has to be re-fitted every so often as his limb shrinks bit by bit.  This makes the right half of his body look slightly larger than the left.  “My booty is not this big,” Tisdale says, grinning. “Now I’ll be able to block ’em out — I’ll be great on offense.”

nba_tisdale3_3003After being away from music for awhile, Tisdale has returned to the studio.  His new album, “Rebound”, tells the story of his survival.  He’s now using his music and that big, beautiful smile to minister to people.  “I’ve been blessed with this great gift, but I think it’s not music or basketball,” Tisdale says. “My greatest gift is to make other people feel better. What better tool than to have gone through something like this? If you see me smile, you see the genuine love. That’s me.”

When asked what helped get him through the tough times, Tisdale spoke of his faith…”All I had was God”.  God bless you, Wayman Tisdale.

Read the full-length story on Tisdale and a video about him at http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/columns/story?page=tisdale-081203&campaign=rss&source=ESPNHeadlines.


One Response

  1. […] posted an entry on his life and battle with cancer back in December.  That article can be viewed here.  You can also read a story about him and his passing on […]

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