Wayman Tisdale


Melinda Welsh’s 1993 cover story on Wayman Tisdale.

Melinda Welsh’s 1993 cover story on Wayman Tisdale.

Former Sacramento King Wayman Tisdale, 44, died last Friday. News that the beloved NBA player and jazz musician lost his life to cancer made the rounds of the sports-talk guys last weekend as the NBA regional semi-finals proceeded. Warm stories were told, respect was paid.

For longtime Kings fans, it was an occasion to look back and remember Tisdale’s era out at Arco Arena. The team struggled in those days, too; still, they were loved and respected on and off the court. Especially Tisdale, who—while no slouch as a player, averaging nearly 19 points and eight rebounds a game for the six seasons he was a King—was also the team’s house musician and social conscience. (Before it was de rigueur for athletes to host their own charities, he’d set up Team Tisdale to keep at-risk Sacramento kids in schools and off drugs.)

I spent some time in his Pocket area home back in 1993 in pursuit of a profile story for SN&R. In fact, “Wayman’s World” remains a fond memory from that era, not only because upon arriving at his house for the interview I was nearly eaten alive by Tisdale’s Rottweiler, Baron, but also because Tisdale allowed me to hang out with him in his garage music studio and, along with a musician friend, played me tracks off his latest jazz-funk recording.

Mostly, I recall how SN&R’s Noel Neuburger took a photograph of him that day that maybe summarized the breadth of the man better than any other.

At some point after Neuburger arrived, we’d gotten the nod from Tisdale that it was OK to invade his family’s large living room and turn it into a photo studio. We did. Lights, backdrop, cameras. Noel talked the 6-foot-9-inch ball player into putting on a Kings jersey, strapping on a bass and, well … out came that bright flash-white smile. Tisdale’s wife, Regina, and daughter, Danielle, giggled wildly from the hallway as the cover photo shoot went forward. “I’ve always had enthusiasm for whatever I was doing,” he’d told me with a smile.

Thank you, Wayman, for the enthusiasm, the hoop, the music and the spirit. In Sacramento and elsewhere, you will not be forgotten.