6 minute read

Wayman Tisdale Biography

Selected discography


Professional basketball player, musician

Tisdale, Wayman, photograph. Kent Horner/NBAE via Getty Images.

Bass player Wayman Tisdale played twelve years in the National Basketball Association (NBA) as a power forward before turning his undivided attention to his first love: music. Releasing his first solo album in 1995 while still playing in the NBA, the six-foot, nine-inch tall, 240 pound giant had released his sixth album by 2004. His first four albums reached Billboard's top ten chart and included the number-one hit "Can't Hide Love." He has also contributed to other recordings as a writer and a producer.

The youngest of six children, Wayman Lawrence Tisdale was born on June 8, 1964, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where his father, the late Rev. Louis Tisdale, served as the pastor of Tulsa's Friendship Baptist Church for over 20 years. When Tisdale was young his father bought each of his three sons a Mickey Mouse guitar, hoping at least one of them would take an interest in music. Tisdale, who loved to watch the bass players at his father's church, was instantly enthralled and began to teach himself to play guitar and bass.

Although music was Tisdale's first love, a rapid growth spurt during his junior high school years—he grew 24 inches and began to tower over his older siblings—drew him onto the basketball court. Though he did not completely set aside his music, basketball became his first priority. Growing to his full height of six-feet, nine inches, and displaying tremendous athletic ability, Tisdale became a star player at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa. By the time he graduated in the spring of 1982, he had his pick from literally hundreds of college scholarship offers.

Choosing to remain close to home, Tisdale attended Oklahoma University. Playing for the Sooners he quickly earned recognition as one of the country's best power forwards. Having watched Tisdale during his high school days, J. V. Haney of the Tulsa World recalled his reaction to Tisdale's transition into college basketball: "At 6' 9", he was too much for most high school players to defend against, but I never thought that he displayed the toughness to be a great player. Boy was I wrong. Once he arrived at the University of Oklahoma, the man-child became an honest-to-goodness man."

Tisdale was named first-team All-American in each of his three years of college play, averaging 25.6 points and over 10 rebounds per game. His field goal percentage was an impressive 57.8 percent. In 1984 he became a member of the then-amateur U.S. Olympic basketball team, which won the gold medal. Tisdale was the first Oklahoma Sooner basketball player to have his jersey number, 23, retired.

In 1985 Tisdale decided to forego his final year of college to enter the NBA draft. He was selected as the second overall pick, after Patrick Ewing, by the Indiana Pacers. During his rookie year Tisdale averaged 14.7 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. By his fourth and final season with the Pacers, Tisdale's numbers had improved to 17.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, but the long-suffering Pacers failed to post a winning record during the period. In 1989 Tisdale joined the Sacramento Kings, another losing team, but he had his best season on the floor, scoring a career-high average of 22.3 points per game. The following season he averaged 20 points per game, before falling to just under 17 points per game for the next three seasons. Despite his contribution, the Kings continued to post losing seasons during Tisdale's five-year tenure.

Tisdale signed as a free agent with the Phoenix Suns in 1994. Although his minutes as well as his points per game dropped, he was finally playing on a winning team. The Suns earned first place in the 1995 Pacific Division with a record of 59-23, losing in the Western Conference Semifinals. Over his twelve-year career, Tisdale scored more than 12,000 points and pulled down over 5,000 rebounds, prompting Sports Illustrated Web site writer John Hollinger to add him to the short list of the NBA's best players who were never invited to play in an All-Star game.

As Tisdale's basketball career was winding down, his music career was just getting started. "The guys, especially Charles Barkley, used to tease me on the bus when they'd see me with my bass," Tisdale told Billboard. However, before he ever released a solo album, Tisdale was busy writing and producing. He wrote the song "Payday" for The Winans, a cut that featured R. Kelly. He also wrote several songs for SWV's first album, which sold around 3 million copies.

In 1995, after putting together a demo of seven songs, he proved that his interest in music was not just a passing fancy when he scored a recording contract with Motown's MoJazz label. His debut album, aptly titled Power Forward, made it to number four on Billboard's contemporary jazz charts. In 1996 Tisdale released his second album, once again taking on a basketball theme with the title In the Zone. The unexpected death of his 74-year-old father on March 28, 1997, helped finalize his decision to retire from the NBA following the 1996-97 season to focus solely on his music. It also became the impetus for his third album, Decisions, released in 1998, which marked a pivotal moment in his professional and personal life. Although the move to fulltime musician may have surprised those who had followed his NBA career, for Tisdale the transition was natural and smooth. "Music was what I thought I was going to do," he told Jet. "I wanted to be an artist even before I started thinking about basketball."

Face to Face, released by Warner Brothers in 2001, hit the number-one spot on Billboard's contemporary jazz charts, confirming that Tisdale's abilities as a bass player rivaled his abilities as a power forward and earning him honors as the Bassist of the Year during the 2002 National Smooth Jazz Awards. The track "Can't Hide Love" was a number one hit. For his fifth album, Tisdale followed an industry trend by forming his own production company, Tisway Records, to produce 21 Days, which includes contributions from Tisdale's daughter Danielle and his brother Weldon, who followed their father as pastor of Friendship Baptist Church, where Tisdale and his family continue to attend. Tisdale wrote or co-wrote the eleven tracks for this gospel-influenced album, which includes songs such as "We Worship" and "Jesus Is the Answer."

At a Glance …

Born on June 9, 1964, in Fort Worth, TX; married Regina; four children. Education: Attended University of Oklahoma, 1982-85.

Career: Indiana Pacers, professional basketball player, 1985-89; Sacramento Kings, professional basketball player, 1989-94; Phoenix Suns, professional basketball player, 1994-97; recording artist, 1996–.

Memberships: Named to U.S. Olympic basketball team, 1984.

Awards: Olympic gold medal, basketball, 1984; Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, 2002; National Smooth Jazz Awards, Bassist of the Year, 2002.

Addresses: Agent—Cole Classic Management, P.O. Box 231, Canoga Park, CA 91305. Record Label—Rendezvous Entertainment, 2211 Corinth Avenue, Suite 207, Los Angeles, CA 90064.

In 2004 Tisdale worked with Rendezvous Entertainment co-founder saxophonist Dave Koz to produce his sixth album, Hang Time, featuring Koz's saxophone. The album also includes the re-release of "Glory Glory," which first appeared on 21 Days and showcases Tisdale's daughter Danielle on vocals. Tisdale spent much of 2004 on the road touring with Koz. He continues to play in a variety of venues as well as work in the studio. He lives in Tulsa with his wife Regina and their four children.

Selected discography

Power Forward, Motown, 1995.

In the Zone, Motown, 1996.

Decisions, Atlantic, 1998.

Face to Face, Warner Brothers, 2001.

21 Days, Tisway Records, 2003.

Hang Time, Rendezvous, 2004.



Billboard, April 21, 2001, p. 18; November 1, 2003, p. 32.

Jet, August 14, 1995, p. 48; August 23, 2004, p. 35.

Sports Illustrated, July 15, 2002, p. 86.

Tulsa World, August 28, 2002.


"Interview: Wayman Tisdale," Manhunt, www.manhunt.com/features/html/232.html (January 10, 2005).

"The All-Not-Quite-Team," Sports Illustrated (January 28, 2003), http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/statitudes/news/2003/01/27/statitudes_0128/ (January 10, 2005).

Wayman Tisdale, www.tisway.com (January 10, 2005).

"Wayman Tisdale," Basketball Reference, www.basketballreference.com/players/playerpage.htm?ilkid=TISDAWA01 (January 10, 2005).

—Kari Bethel

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Theodosius I to David Watmough Biography - David Watmough comments: