John Holcomb on Tisdale's Passing


Friday, May 15th 2009, 12:56 pm
By: News 9


By John Holcomb, for News9.com

TULSA, Oklahoma -- I can't say I was a good friend of Wayman Tisdale, even though like many Oklahomans I felt that way. It's easy to think in those terms about someone who seemed so warm, so personable, so happy. His basketball ability is what made us take notice. His personality is what drew us in.

Wayman's style of play was a mix of power and grace. The college game had just experienced Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, but the OU freshman out of Booker T brought something new. Once he got position down low, defenders had no chance. His left-handed turnaround with that soft touch was unstoppable.

During his three All-America years with the Sooners, three things stick out in my memory. The game with Georgia Tech, led by Mark Price, that the Sooners won in Norman, punctuated by a Tisdale dunk. The game with Tulsa at the Convention Center, a goal-tending call on a shot by Wayman and the subsequent finger-pointing, and Billy Tubbs' vow never to return. And Wayman's game-winner in the NCAA's to beat Karl Malone and Louisiana Tech (and the radio call by John Brooks).

As spectacular as his time in Norman was, Wayman's NBA journey was probably underappreciated. He did end up averaging more than 15 points per game for his career, mostly on below-average teams.

Wayman had plenty of star power, yet he was just fine letting others take center stage. Most may not remember that while Michael Jordan and others took the headlines during the 1984 Olympics, Wayman was Team USA's leading rebounder on that gold medal-winning squad.

That trait translated after his playing days to his music. An award-winning bassist, plenty good enough to take over, but willing to establish the foundation for others to succeed.

When I think of Wayman, I'll remember a big, approachable bear of a man, with that smile. That engaging smile, probably the only thing that outsized his musical talent or what he accomplished on the court.

Thank you Wayman, for making so many of us smile along with you.