we met wayman tisdale in early october, 1990. the phoenix suns had for many years opened their training camp in flagstaff. high altitude training is good for conditioning. many olympic class athletes still go there for nau's high altitude training program.
at the conclusion of the sun's annual week in flagstaff they would stage an exhibition game. in the older days, as in 1990, they made it a neat community event. in fact, they called it an "ice cream social". just one more reason for me to show up. in addition to watching a game for free, we also got to enjoy free dessert. perfect!
but the really neat thing they did was, prior to playing their scrimmage, the team and coaches, and trainer joe prosky all lined up in folding chairs behind folding tables and fans could walk along the tables getting autographs sequentially from everyone associated with the team.
scooter was 3 in 1990. and already very much a sports fan. so he and i, along with mom and boog, lined up with the rest of the fans so scooter could have the group sign his mini-basketball.
tis was new to the team. just acquired somehow from, i believe, the kings. we knew of him. but not much about him. didn't even know he'd been a star sooner. but he, andrew lang and tim perry were sitting together at one table. and as i recall it was perry who asked scooter his name when he was presented the basketball to sign. and when scooter said "scooter" the three of them started chuckling. they seemed to think scooter was a pretty cool name for a three year old.
and they all took their time with scooter. chatting, laughing, high fiving. gave the kid quite a thrill. heck, gave his old man quite a thrill.
from that point forward, tis became one of our favorites. along with thunder dan and kj and tom chambers and mark west. we felt like we knew them after hand shaking and kabitzing at the ice cream social.
that was the last year the suns had the ice cream social. after that it became commercial. ticket sales. larger venue. and no chance to play meet and greet with the players. but we sure enjoyed our one big opportunity.
scooter was diagnosed with leukemia three and a half years later. and a funny thing happens to people who are diagnosed with cancer. and to their families. you no longer fear looking at a kid with a bald head and a moon face. instead you're inclined to walk up to them and begin a conversation. i like to tell scooter's tale, in brief, and offer some sort of encouragement. most who haven't experienced the disease up close and personal don't feel comfortable doing that sort of thing. we learned from scooter's ordeal.
and while someone several years ago placed a bold check mark under the "cured" column on scooter's ledger, we still frequently have an opportunity to get involved, at least emotionally so, with others that are faced with the dreaded disease. cancer patients and their families all seem to naturally develop this sort of bond.
we all felt bad, weakened really, when we heard a couple years ago that wayman tisdale had cancer. bone cancer of some sort, as i recall. but as we read about it, for he was a famous athlete and musician and his story was told in lots of newspapers throughout the country, we were encouraged by his faith, his confidence, his positive attitude. we felt sure wayman, like scooter, would be added to the "cured" ledger in short order.
we read about tis having his leg partially amputated. insurance, he said, to make sure the cancer doesn't find its way into other areas of his body. and we got a little misty-eyed last fall when local news footage showed wayman, in a wheel chair, rolling through the crowd in norman to attend the ou/osu game. and of course the local reporters interviewed. his voice clear, his demeanor positive. we were glad to see him so pleasant.
we were stunned when he heard the news report this morning. wayman tisdale lost his battle with cancer. he died this morning in tulsa. where he grew up.
and while i'm sure he soon forgot meeting a kid named scooter and signing a little basketball for him nearly twenty years ago, we haven't. and we still appreciate his kindness. almost as if we've lost a family member.
r i p, wayman tisdale.