By Toby Rowland, NEWS 9 Sports
Wayman Tisdale was my first sports hero. Actually, he is my only sports hero.
Charles Barkley says athletes should not be held up as role models. He's wrong when it comes to Wayman. I remember being a 12-year-old boy when my father, a minister, pointed at Tisdale one night in the Lloyd Noble Center and said to me "that's the way an athlete should behave, son."
Sure he was a great player. The greatest basketball player this state has ever produced. But it was more than that with Wayman. He was electric. He was charismatic. He was impossible to turn away from.
When he played, he played with flare. When he spoke, he did it with dignity. Wayman made basketball look fun, and he made life look easy. His smile lit up every room and it seemed to never fade...even in his final darkest months. He was an unabashed Man of God, willing to share with anyone his faith.
Much will be said about the on-court accomplishments of number-23, and deservedly so. But Wayman will always be to me what my dad said he was 33 years ago, the example of how an athlete should behave.
I've looked up to others through the years, but they have almost all let me down. Steroids. Infidelity. Immorality. Sooner or later they all come back down to earth for me. Now I'm so cynical of athletes that I just assume they will all disappoint me eventually.
But not Wayman. He existed on another level. He never let me down, right to the end. He lived with class, and died with class...way too soon.
Later today when my boys get out of elementary school and find out the sad news, I will eagerly sit them down and explain to them who Wayman Tisdale is, and why he is such an important figure on the Oklahoma sports tapestry. And I will end by telling them that Wayman Tisdale is the greatest example I've ever seen of how an athlete should behave.