The effervescent smile is what we'll all remember the most about Wayman Tisdale. Almost every time I saw him, or interviewed him during his NBA playing days, Tisdale always flashed his trademark smile that would just light up a room.
Unfortunately, we won't see that smile again. Tisdale lost his two-year battle with bone cancer Friday when he died at a hospital in his hometown of Tulsa, OK.
He was only 44 years old.
For those of us who knew Tisdale, it's as if we just lost a brother, a friend or a close confidant.
Sam Perkins, the vice-president of player relations for the Indiana Pacers, was a teammate of Tisdale's when the United States captured the gold medal in the 1984 Olympics. They had first met earlier when Tisdale's Oklahoma Sooners faced Perkins' North Carolina squad on the basketball court.
"First off, Wayman was like my little brother,'' Perkins said in a statement released by the Pacers. "I enjoyed being around him all the time. The way we met made it so much sweeter, and I know he may have had the same impact on all the people he came in contact with, because Wayman was just that way.
"He was a great, fun person who just loved to joke around and laugh. Our Olympic friendship was the best.''
Tisdale was a three-time All-American who also played 12 years in the NBA. He was the No. 2 overall pick by the Pacers in the 1985 NBA Draft -- behind Patrick Ewing -- and never met a person he didn't like.
"We are deeply saddened with the news on the passing of Wayman Tisdale,' Pacers' co-owner Herb Simon said in a statement. "His personality, his smile, his laugh and his positive outlook on life were such that anyone who ever came in contact with Wayman immediately loved him.
"He was a very good basketball player, but an even better human being. He was a much-loved and respected member of the Pacers' family. The Indiana Pacers send our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Regina, their children and the entire Tisdale family.''
The last time I talked with Tisdale was last year. A pretty darn good jazz musician, I wrote a story about his jazz career and about how he was coming to the Metroplex to stage a jazz concert.
Other job commitments that night kept me from attending the concert. But I do have a copy of one of his CD's, and I'm telling you, his music abilities were just as good as his basketball skills.
Tisdale's debut album, "Way Up,'' spent four weeks on top of the contemporary jazz charts after its release in July of 2006.
"We had a great time when we got together, and playing alongside of him was just icing on the cake,'' Perkins said. "He had a heart as big as Texas and Oklahoma put together. His smile was genuine and I will miss my brother because he was music for the soul.''
One of only 10 players who were named college All-Americans in three different seasons, Tisdale discovered he had a cancerous cyst below his right knee after he broke his leg while falling down a flight of chairs at his home in Feb. of 2007. Tisdale's right leg was amputated last August, but that never dampened his spirit.
Tisdale, who was selected last month to be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, just kept on smiling and kept on being a positive influence for others.
"I just felt good in his presence because he was a real friend,'' Perkins said. "He loved you for you, and I loved him for being my friend and allowing me into his life. I would be surprised if he had any enemies.
"As a father, husband and friend you just can't say enough about him, because he was more than words can describe. I will miss him.''
So will everybody else whose life he touched. So will I.
_ Dwain Price