Former Michigan big man Robert “Tractor” Traylor suffered an apparent heart attack earlier today and was found dead in his apartment in Puerto Rico. The 34-year old had previous heart conditions, including aortic surgery in 2005, which led to his eventual departure from the NBA. His current team, the Bayomon Vaqueros have canceled their game tonight in observance of his passing.
A former 6th overall draft pick by the Dallas Mavericks, Traylor was best known for his size, hence his nickname, but his career was overshadowed by the controversy of his association with boosters at the University of Michigan and the program’s subsequent punishment, diminishing his efforts in leading the Wolverines to the 1997 NIT championship. Upon drafting Traylor, the Mavericks immediately traded him for their franchise cornerstone Dirk Nowitzki.
In 2008, Traylor was targeted by the IRS for back taxes to the tune of $241,000 and change. At that point, he signed a contract with Turkey’s Antalya Kepez Belediyesi, and later Italy’s NSB Napoli. Traylor also won the 2010 Defensive Player of the Year award with the Vaqueros.
Controversy and hardships aside, Traylor will probably always be remembered for the ridiculous highlight of ripping down the backboard against Ball State.