Eamonn Brennan of ESPN is reporting that Robert Traylor, the former Michigan basketball star and NBA player, was found dead in his apartment in Isla Verde, Puerto Rico, today, according to a Spanish-language Facebook release from his current professional club (via SB Nation and Scott Schroeder). Traylor was 34 years old.
The cause of death was not made available to the public, although media outlets are reporting that it was a heart attack.
Since his time as a dominant low-post collegiate force and his stint in the NBA (1998-2005), Traylor had battled obesity and a heart defect that required surgery in 2005. After the surgery, Traylor signed with the New Jersey Nets, but the deal was scrapped when he failed to pass a physical examination.
Traylor made professional tours in Turkey, Italy and Puerto Rico as he continued to struggle with his weight and his heart. Despite his health problems, Traylor was the MVP of the Turkish All-Star Game in 2009, and he was named defensive player of the year in Puerto Rico in 2010.
Brennan reports that Traylor was nicknamed "Tractor" because of his massive size. "Traylor physically imposed his will on defenders with dominant ease. Perhaps no player in the history of the game was so simultaneously stout and athletic; it's hard to recall a basketball player with the same mix of overwhelming size and surprisingly nimble speed," wrote Brennan.
Despite his place alongside Kevin Garnett, Vince Carter and Paul Pierce in the 1995 McDonald's All-American class and his ensuing brilliance in college, Traylor never made an impact at the pro level. Despite that fact, Traylor accomplished a lot in his short time on earth. A sad loss for the sports community.
Read more at ESPN.