Film delivers Wayman Tisdale’s message
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Published: January 22, 2010
Even while facing the wrath of coach Bob Knight as a member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic basketball team or battling bone cancer, which claimed his right leg and then his life, Wayman Tisdale never lost his trademark smile.
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His inspiring life story is told in the just-completed "The Wayman Tisdale Story,” which does a superb job of telling how the son of a preacher went on to excel in basketball, jazz and life. The one-hour documentary is a joint venture of Chicago-based Kurtis Productions and Harran Productions.
If ESPN had room for a 31st film in its exemplary "30 for 30” series, the Tisdale film would be an excellent addition. Filmmaker Brian Schodorf said he is talking with four cable networks and hoped to schedule an Oklahoma premiere around the air date. A three-minute trailer can be viewed at www.thewaymantisdalestory.com
Schodorf and his film crew interviewed Tisdale’s family, coaches and numerous colleagues in basketball and music. Among those interviewed were basketball stars Michael Jordan and A.C. Green, jazz greats Dave Koz and Marcus Miller and country music star Toby Keith.
A highly recruited star at Tulsa Washington High School, Tisdale went on to become a prolific scorer at the University of Oklahoma and one of its most popular players ever.
"I always said if he played four years at Oklahoma, he would have wound up being governor of Oklahoma,” said Billy Tubbs, his coach at OU.
Tisdale left after his junior year and was selected by the Indiana Pacers as the No. 2 pick overall in the 1985 draft. He never matched his college success in his 12-year NBA career, which also included stints with the Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns.
Tisdale’s first love always was music, and he surprised skeptical record label executives with his uncanny ability as a left-handed bass guitarist. He went on to produce eight jazz albums.
"This was a 6-foot-9 guy with a bass guitar making romantic music,” Koz said.
Tisdale told how his music and his faith helped him to keep his spirits up as he battled cancer.
The timing for the documentary project, in which a film crew just happened to capture key events in the final days of his life, has led Schodorf to call it a "God thing.”
"Wayman’s message needs to be heard,” Schodorf said. "He can really touch people.”
Last April, Schodorf’s crew filmed Tisdale in Tulsa when he was honored at the Legacy Award Dinner and teared up when talking about his idol, his father, Louis. The next day, they filmed his next-to-last jazz concert in Memphis, Tenn. In early May, they interviewed family members in Tulsa.
On May 15, Tisdale died at age 44.
Schodorf said some of the film’s licensing fees will go to the Wayman Tisdale Foundation, which provides financial assistance to amputees seeking prosthetic limbs.