Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Nail in the Coffin: RIP Wayman Tisdale

If you haven't heard already, former NBA player Wayman Tisdale passed away on Friday. The whole thing is especially tragic considering how young he was (only 44), how it came about after a two year long battle with cancer that even cost him his right leg, and how by all accounts he was a pretty classy guy. For me, what really brings this loss home is the fact that Tisdale now has the dubious distinction of being the first NBA Jam player to have passed away (technically, if you want to split hairs about it, it's arguable that Drazen Petrovic was the first player to pass away if you count the arcade game...which I won't).

For me, NBA Jam will forever be the all encompassing symbol of the happiest period of sports fandom in my life. Back in the mid 90s, basketball ruled my middle school life and I followed my New York Knicks and the NBA with a wholehearted, innocent passion, that'll never be duplicated again. It was my first love and my first introduction to sports as a whole. Serendipitously at the height of my infatuation, I got a copy of the greatest sports game ever made, NBA Jam, for my Genesis. I spent untold hours dominating the league with my unstoppable Knick duo of Patrick Ewing and John Starks. It was seriously one of the best duos in the game, you had Ewing with his maxed out low post dunking and defensive skills and Starks with his speed and deadly three point accuracy, all bases were covered. The only other team with such perfect symmetry was the aging Pistons team with Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer.

It has been a downer year overall for NBA Jam. In addition to the death of Tisale, the imminent retirement of Dikemembe Mutombo means that there will officially be no more active players from the original game roster. It's just another sad reminder of the unyielding march of time and the changes we all have to accept.

So what final words do I have to say about Wayman Tisdale, the NBA Jam player? Statistics wise he was actually one of the worse players in the game with only a slighly above average dunking ability. Paired with the supremely talented Mitch Richmond he was at best a useful role player and at worse a slow footed albatross. But we shouldn't let the mediocre abilities of Wayman Tisdale, NBA Jam Player, take away from the more notable accomplishments of Wayman Tisdale, real life person; the monster college player who was Blake Griffin before Blake Griffin, the solid if not spectacular 13 year NBA veteran, and the surprisingly successful smooth jazz artist (8 albums since 1995, including one that went to Number 1 on Billboard's contemporary jazz chart. It makes Bernie Williams' musical career look positively Federline).

Boom shakalaka, wherever you are.

Wayman Tisdale
1964-2009

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