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The late Wayman Tisdale is a name known to basketball and smooth jazz fans, but some might not know of his earlier achievements in sports. Tisdale was the first college basketball to be elected to the Associated Press All-American Team for the first three years of of his collegiate career.

Born June 9, 1964 in Forth Worth, Texas, Tisdale was raised in Tulsa, Okla. His father was a popular preacher in the area. Tisdale wasn’t a big fan of basketball as a young boy, but began to embrace the game when he was in the eighth grade as he got taller. By the time he graduated from  Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, Tisdale was one of the more sought-after high school players in the nation.

He signed with the University of Oklahoma, and was an instant success. Tisdale still holds the record foer most points scored by a player through their freshman and sophomore years. Tisdale was also a three-time Big Eight Conference Player of the Year. In 1984, Tisdale also won an Olympic gold medal for the United States under famed Indiana coach Bobby Knight.

In 1997, Tisdale’s number, 23, was also the first to be retired by the University of Oklahoma in any sport. Current NBA All-Star Blake Griffin got Tisdale’s permission to wear the number when he played for the school in 2007.

Tisdale was selected second overall by the Indiana Pacers in 1985. Standing at 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds, Tisdale averaged 15 points and six rebounds in his career playing the center and forward positions. Tisdale left the NBA in 1997 to focus on music, which he considered his first love.

Prior to basketball, Tisdale was the bass guitarist in his father’s choir and he continued his prowess with the instrument as a professional player. Tisdale released eight albums on the MoJazz label over the course of his career.  His 2001 album Face To Face went #1 on the Contemporary Jazz charts.

Tisdale was diagnosed with a form a cancer in his knee, and faced a challenging road getting treated for the disease. Because of his size, doctors found it difficult to administer care. Tisdale’s leg was amputated to prevent the spread of cancer in 2009. He still planned to tour that year, but died in May.

The University of Oklahoma opened the Wayman Tisdale Specialty Health Clinic to serve poor residents of Northern Tulsa. The NCAA’s honor for Outstanding Freshman is named the Wayman Tisdale Award. Another fun fact: Tisdale’s name was used for a character in the 1991 comedy, Strictly Business.

Tisdale is survived by his wife, Regina, and their four children.

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The Ten Most Interesting Little Known Black History Facts
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