Wayman Tisdale Made Music

Wayman Tisdale died this morning at the age of 44.

The 6-9 former Pacer, King and Sun, who was 1985's second overall draft pick, is up there with Magic Johnson and Bill Bradley, at or near the top of the list of NBA players who achieved great success both in the NBA, and then again in a wholly different second career.

Tisdale's eight albums, multiple Billboard hits, brand-name collaborations (famously with Toby Keith) and live performances established the bassist as a free-standing force in the world of jazz.

Those who knew Tisdale, however, swear that the real story of the man was not his basketball skill, nor his work on the electric bass. It was his tremendous heart -- which was on full display in the way he handled himself after doctors, fighting his spreading cancer, amputated most of his right leg last year.

Kirk Whalum is a smooth jazz saxophonist who played with Tisdale. In a video profile of Tisdale's album "Way Up," Whalum says:

A big guy. With a big sound. And just an incredibly warm and gentle heart. ...

You're thinking it's going to be this guy rocking, funking out on the bass. And he has some of that. But man, when he hits you with a melody that he has written, that's so soft and so beautiful, it's like nothing else. ...

Wayman Tisdale has the gift of touching people's hearts.

Tisdale is survived by his wife, four children, and granddaughter.