Robert Traylor has been found dead in his apartment in Puerto Rico at the age of 34. Traylor, who starred for the University of Michigan in the 1990s and was the No. 6 pick in the 1998 NBA Draft, was rehabbing an injury when, according to Primera Hora, he hadn't been seen for several days. His Puerto Rican club Bayamon confirmed his death on Wednesday.
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.