*Robert Traylor, the former NBA and University of Michigan big man nicknamed Tractor because of his hulking frame, was found dead in his apartment in Puerto Rico on Tuesday. He was 34 years old.
Puerto Rican officials and officials of the Bayamon Cowboys, for whom Traylor played for in the Puerto Rican league, said it appears he died from a heart attack.
“He was the leader of the team,” said Cowboys manager Juan Carlos Perez. “He was very, very friendly. He got along very well with everyone. The fans loved him, idolized him.”
Perez told reporters that Traylor was talking with his wife, who was in Chicago, when the phone line went dead. Further efforts by his wife to reach her husband failed, prompting officials to enter the apartment. His body was discovered Wednesday on the bedroom floor of his oceanfront apartment.
The 6-foot-8, 300-pound Traylor was injured and had not been playing, Perez said.
Traylor entered the NBA draft after his junior year at Michigan, where he averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds in his third season. He was taken with the sixth pick by the Dallas Mavericks in the 1998 NBA draft and then traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for Pat Garrity and Dirk Nowitzki.
Traylor never developed into the star many thought he would in the NBA. He averaged just 4.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game in stints with the Bucks, Cavaliers, and Hornets. He signed with the New Jersey Nets in 2006, but the deal was rescinded after Traylor failed the team physical.
Traylor played internationally in Turkey, Italy and finally Puerto Rico before his death. He was selected as 2010 Defensive Player of the Year of Baloncesto Superior Nacional.
Traylor struggled with health and weight issues throughout most of his adult life, including aorta issues that required surgery several years ago.