Wayman Tisdale, one of the most beloved sports figures in Oklahoma history, has passed away at the age of 44, following a short, but extensive, battle with cancer.
Tisdale, had part of his right leg amputated on Aug. 25, 2008, after bone cancer was discovered by doctors after a fall in his Los Angeles home. The 12-year NBA veteran, and well-known jazz musician, spoke about the decision through his website following the initial surgery.
"This may sound drastic, but I have put it in God's hands and now have peace, knowing that this is the best way to put this disease in check," he said. "I have complete faith that with the Lord's blessings this surgery will eliminate the cancer from my body and I'll soon be back on the road doing what I do best."
Tisdale, who was fitted with a prosthetic leg following the amputation, continued his music career and was still a visible presence at University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma City Thunder basketball games. But his battle with cancer wasn't finished as the disease continued to spread following the initial surgery.
"A lot of people didn't know how sick he really was," said Stacey King, a former teammate of Tisdale's at Oklahoma. "The one thing he did until the very end was he lived his life the way he wanted to.
"When I called and talked to him on the phone the one thing he always told me was, 'Don't feel sorry for me'. He said not to go around and give him a pity party. He said he lived a great life and I'm going to let the chips fall where they may. I'm going to battle to the very end."
Tisdale's appearances at local basketball games, his musical tours just before his death – all of it was Tisdale's way of continuing to live out his days on his terms according to King.
"He continued with his career, he toured up until the last couple of weeks and he continued doing the things that Wayman Tisdale wanted to do," added King. "He didn't let this disease consume him to the point he was hiding. He was out in the public eye and he did it his way to the very end. Everyone across the country should understand he went out on his own terms."
Tisdale was the first player in the history of college basketball to be named a first-team All-American by The Associated Press during his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons.
Tisdale was well-known for his trademark smile and his infectious personality. Even those who didn't play or coach with Tisdale came away feeling better about their encounters with the biggest name in OU basketball history.
"Wayman Tisdale is one of the best people I have ever had the privilege of knowing," said current Oklahoma head coach Jeff Capel. "He had an incredible gift of making the people who came in contact with him feel incredibly special. His basketball talent and accomplishments pale in comparison to the impact he had on the lives that he influenced by the way he lived his life, and the tremendous character he displayed in his fight with cancer.
"Throughout it all, he always had that infectious smile. This is an incredibly sad day as we have lost not only one of the greatest Sooners ever, but one of the all-time best people to walk the face of this earth."
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