Wayman Tisdale Seamlessly Went From NBA Career to Jazz Career

The late Wayman Tisdale was not just a 12-year NBA veteran. Yes, he had a great career as a role player with the Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings, and Phoenix Suns, but Tisdale’s greatest feat may have come off of the basketball court.

While Tisdale was guarding the paint, he carved out a music career on the side. That career kept him in the spotlight until he died in 2009. 

Wayman Tisdale takes the court

Wayman Tisdale
Wayman Tisdale | Rick Diamond/WireImage

The second overall pick of 1985, Tisdale came into the league as one of the most heavily-sought-after prospects in college thanks in large part to his turn on the Olympic team.

After making waves in his home state of Oklahoma, scouts across the NBA saw a star in the making. Tisdale reached his full potential for debate, but the power forward showed why he was worth the risk. 

During his rookie season in Indiana, Tisdale averaged almost 15 points a game to go along with seven rebounds. This type of output became regular for him going forward. After three-and-a-half years in Indiana, however, he packed his bags and moved to Sacramento in a trade. There, in the years leading up to the Mitch Richmond era for the Kings, Tisdale provided the team with the type of scoring and rebounding it needed to succeed.

Although Tisdale’s role shrank ever-so-slightly after Richmond came to the team, he provided the Kings with nearly 17 points and seven rebounds a game after scoring nearly twenty his first two years. Tisdale never made an All-Star team, but his role inside the Kings could not go understated, and while the Kings struggled to get a lot of wins, Tisdale and Richmond developed a rapport. 

After three sub-par years in Phoenix, Tisdale retired in 1997 to focus on his career in music. 

Wayman Tisdale takes the stage

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The marriage between music and basketball is typically defined by the culture of hip hop that took the sport by storm in the early nineties. Tisdale, however, was all about that jazz. Using that same hard work and motivation that were staples of his NBA career, the retired power forward took his love of jazz to another level as he experimented with blues and jazz. 

Deeply religious, Tisdale got the bug to make his music as a child after watching the church band play on Sundays.

“I thought they were the coolest cats. They got to stand and do their thing in the back. I’d watch their fingering and how they played,” Tisdale told All That Jazz about his upbringing. 

Eventually, he got a bass of his own and that love never whimpered. From childhood to his death in 2009, Tisdale focused on his music full-time, collaborating with some of the best jazz musicians on the planet. He composed and performed his music with the help of others, keeping the vocals to Grammy-winning singers like Eric Benet. 

Wayman Tisdale’s dual success

Tisdale debuted his first album, the aptly titled Power Forward, in 1995. Although a jazz album performed by an NBA forward might not be the niche that people need, consumers flocked to buy the album, elevating it to number four on the Billboard charts.

For the rest of his life, Tisdale worked with several of the biggest names in music. Perhaps, his greatest claim to fame came when Tisdale was asked to record and perform with Jamie Foxx. 

In 2009, per CNN, Tisdale passed away after a two-year battle with bone cancer that was discovered after he broke his leg in a freak accident. His impact on basketball was. Remembered by teammates like Reggie Miller, but his impact on music may have been just as prevalent. To this day, Tisdale’s music resonates with jazz and blues fans across the country. 

While athletes-turned-singers have a questionable history at best, Tisdale broke that mold and forged himself a career that may have had more impact than his basketball career ever did. Tisdale’s life is still an inspiration to all who knew the athlete and musician ten years after his death.