Robert Traylor Found Dead In Apartment In Puerto Rico, According To Team
Robert Traylor, affectionately known as "Tractor Traylor," has reportedly died at the age of 34 after a massive heart attack. Traylor starred for the Michigan Wolverines in the 1990s and spent seven seasons in the NBA.
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Team manager Jose Carlos Perez has described Traylor's death as being of natural causes.
Traylor had recently complained of having trouble breathing, according to teammate Orlando “Guayacán” Santiago. His last reported communication was an Internet phone call to the United Stats with his wife, but he hadn't been seen out of his home or heard from for multiple days. His family has expressed interest in returning his body to the U.S.
The report states teammates Carmelo Lee, Javier Mojica, Bobby Joe Hatton and Christian Dalmau hurried to the scene, where they found police officers and a prosecutor assessing the situation. Traylor's five teammates at his apartment paid a posthumous tribute to him, according to the report.
Traylor hadn't played in the NBA since 2005, when he appeared in 74 games (most off the bench) for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The New Jersey Nets signed Traylor for the 2005-06 season, but the big man failed his physical, and the Nets canceled the contract. A year later, Traylor underwent surgery on the aortic valve in his heart. He never played in the NBA again, though he has been a strong player in the Turkish, Italian and Puerto Rican leagues.
The subtext of Traylor's NBA exit, though, is other heart issues, the most serious of which was the tragic death of Atlanta Hawks center Jason Collier in October 2005. Collier's death brought new attention to heart issues in the NBA, and though it came two months after the Nets rejected Traylor, it certainly could have impacted his future chances at re-entering the world's top league.
Weight issues kept Traylor from being effective in the NBA; teams have shown a willingness to work around heart issues -- with the cold comfort of insurance, mainly. Eddy Curry is the most appropriate avatar for Traylor: a big man who was too big, who dealt with heart problems. Curry, though, was a few inches taller, and was slim enough on occasion of his second contract to earn a huge amount of money before effectively ending his NBA career. (That contract was heavily ensured in the event heart troubles would prevent Curry from playing.) Traylor wasn't so lucky, and never recovered professionally.
Heart concerns continue to weigh on the NBA; Alabama guard Mikhail Torrance went undrafted last June because of heart concerns. He collapsed on the court during an August workout, and doctors reportedly urged him to end his basketball career.
Robert "Tractor" Traylor's tragic death shook the basketball world Wednesday because he was such a recognizable name despite a short NBA career. Part of this has to do with his size and strength, which is how his nickname developed. Part of it has to do with his tremendous career at the University of Michigan. Part of that has to do with his personality, which made him easy to support.
Nevertheless, it's hard to view Traylor's NBA career as a bit of a disappointment. Throughout his career, he battled weight problems and a heart ailment that required surgery in 2006. He never made it back to the NBA, thanks in part to NBA teams increasingly getting worried about heart issues in the wake of Atlanta's Jason Collier's death a year earlier, and Traylor instead played in Europe for several seasons. When he did play in the NBA, he only averaged 4.8 points and 3.7 rebounds in 14 minutes a game in seven seasons for four different teams. The 1999 lockout derailed him, as did injuries early in his career, and he never got back on track.
A lot of that was his own doing, but a lot of it was also because he was the victim of circumstance. He was drafted No. 6 overall in the 1998 NBA Draft, and was immediately traded for Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki quickly emerged as a superstar for the Mavericks, while Traylor struggled for the Bucks. He was unfairly compared to the big German, even after a trade to Cleveland and then the Hornets. This undoubtedly caused a lot of the disappointment we had in his NBA career to be magnified.
Ultimately, Traylor's career accomplishments pale in comparison to the tragedy of his death.. But his disappointment in the NBA is a shame because so many people wanted him to succeed, and he just couldn't as much as we wanted. Now, he departs from us way too soon.
Robert Traylor, the former University of Michigan standout and short-time NBA forward, was found dead in his apartment in Isla Verde, Puerto Rico, according to Traylor's club (via Scott Schroeder). The big man affectionately known as 'Tractor' Traylor due to his size and strength was just 34 years old.
A cause of death and confirmation from Puerto Rican officials are not yet available. After starring at Michigan, Traylor was the sixth pick in the 1998 NBA Draft. On draft day, the Dallas Mavericks traded Traylor to the Milwaukee Bucks for Dirk Nowitzki, relatively unheralded at the time. Traylor struggled to make an impact at the NBA level, constantly struggling with both his weight and a heart defect that required aortic surgery in 2006.
Traylor moved to Europe around that time, where he played in Turkey (where he was the MVP of the All-Star Game in 2009) and Italy. He most recently starred for the Bayamon Vaqueros of Puerto Rico's domestic club.