Former Michigan basketball and NBA player Robert "Tractor" Traylor was found dead Wednesday morning in Puerto Rico. The news of his death was confirmed by Vaqueros de Bayamon, the team he had been playing for in Puerto Rico.
Traylor, who was only 34 years old, was found in his apartment by teammates who visited the place after not hearing from him in three days. A cause of death hasn't been determined just yet, but The Detroit News' report says that Traylor "apparently suffered a massive heart attack."
Traylor was a McDonald's All-American in high school and played at Michigan in the 1990s. He led the Wolverines to an NIT title in 1997 and a Big Ten tournament title in 1998 (the first year of the event). He was involved in the Ed Martin scandal along with the Fab Five, so his career at Michigan has been vacated from the record books.
Traylor's pro career began in 1998 when the Dallas Mavericks made him the sixth pick of the NBA Draft. He was quickly dealt to the Milwaukee Bucks, which was his team until 2000. He then moved on to Cleveland before playing with the Hornets from 2001-04. The 2004-05 season saw Traylor return to Cleveland for what would be his final year in the NBA. Upon leaving the NBA, Traylor began playing international basketball. He played in Turkey and Italy before settling in Puerto Rico the past few years.
Although he has had plenty of health and heart issues in the past, this news is still shocking to me. My first memories of being a Michigan basketball fan were watching Traylor lead Michigan to that Big Ten tournament title in 1998. Many will remember him for breaking the backboard during a Michigan basketball game or leading the Wolverines to the NIT championship in 1997.
Obviously Traylor had many non-basketball problems and his basketball career never lived up to the hype, but I will always remember him as the Tractor that powered Michigan to a No. 3 seed in the 1998 NCAA tournament. Because of the Ed Martin scandal his legacy at Michigan is tainted, but I thank Robert Traylor for the memories. Rest in peace, Tractor.