SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Former NBA and University of Michigan player Robert “Tractor” Traylor has died. He was 34.
Police in San Juan, Puerto Rico, said in a statement he was found dead Wednesday on the bedroom floor of his oceanfront apartment. Police and Traylor’s team, the Bayamon Cowboys, said he had been missing for a few days and apparently died from a heart attack.
The Cowboys said Traylor was injured and had not been playing. They suspended their game Wednesday night because of his death.
The 6-foot-8, 300-pound Traylor was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks with the sixth pick in 1998, but played for the Milwaukee Bucks his first two seasons. He spent seven years in the NBA, also playing for Cleveland, Charlotte and New Orleans.
Traylor, who got his nickname because of his size, had surgery on his aorta in 2005, the Bayamon Cowboys said.
Team manager Jose Carlos Perez told The Associated Press that Traylor had been talking by phone to his wife in Chicago on Wednesday when the connection was suddenly cut off. She called team officials and they checked on him, Perez said.
“He was a leader of the team,” he said. “He was very, very friendly. He got along very well with everyone. The fans loved him, idolized him.”
Traylor had been playing with a team in Veracruz, Mexico, before he moved to Puerto Rico in mid-March, Perez said.
“His game was one of a lot of strength, a lot of defense,” he said.
Tom Crean, a former assistant at Michigan, echoed those sentiments in post on Twitter.
“At Michigan State we battled against him and he might have been the most time-consuming and mind-challenging matchup we ever faced and we as coaches weren’t even playing. He had great feet and hands and a very soft touch…You really had to have a plan to stop him.”
In 2009, Traylor was sentenced to jail after violating conditions of supervised release related to an income tax case in which he acknowledged preparing a false tax return that hid assets of a convicted drug dealer.
A judge had delayed the sentence so Traylor could play for an Italian team.
Perez said Traylor’s survivors include his wife and two sons.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.