Robert ‘Tractor’ Traylor: Why Dirk was traded for him

Robert “Tractor” Traylor died in 2011. Most hoop fans don’t have any memories of him unless they were lucky enough to watch him play college ball at Michigan, where he, Maceo Baston and Mo Taylor were dunking on everybody. Some hoops fans know of him because they know the answer to this popular trivia question: “Who did the Dallas Mavs draft at No. 6 and then trade to the Bucks for Dirk Nowitzki & Pat Garrity (who was used to trade for Steve Nash)?”

You guessed it, the answer was the 300+ pound Tractor Traylor.

Before you start going off on the Bucks for trading Dirk for a player who never averaged over 6 points and 5 rebounds per game, you have to remember that a lot of people thought Don Nelson was crazy to give up the lottery pick for the unproven German with a horrible haircut. Charles Barkley thought it was a great idea but after a few months, people — including myself and some at Slam Magazine — were saying Barkley was nuts for thinking so highly of Dirk.

Traylor only averaged five points per game his rookie season but Dirk only averaged three more. In their defense, Dirk had Michael Finley, Cedric Ceballos and Gary Trent on his team and all of them were averaging double-figure points and Shawn Bradley, AC Green and Samaki Walker were taking up big man minutes. Over in Milwaukee, Tractor had Tyrone Hill and Ervin Johnson grabbing the boards and no scoring help was needed with the Big Dog, Sam I Am & Jesus on the team.

The next season was a very different story. Dirk was becoming an offensive threat and increased his scoring and rebounding average every year for four consecutive years. During that span, Tractor bounced around the league via multiple trades. The best stretch of his career came in Cleveland in 2001. He was limited by foul trouble but when he played, he made the most of his minutes, making an impact on the offensive and defensive end. He also looked quicker than he did in previous years — evident in the video above.

His NBA career ended shortly after. He went overseas to play in Turkey, Italy, and Mexico before ending up Puerto Rico. He played 10 games with that team before being shut down due to another foot injury. He died of a heart attack later that season.


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