At age 34 of a heart attack, Robert Traylor (above), the 6'8", 300-pound center who thrilled Michigan fans in the 1990s with his power and surprising quickness. Nicknamed Tractor, the former Michigan Mr. Basketball played three years in Ann Arbor, memorably shattering a backboard as a sophomore and leading the Wolverines to the inaugural Big Ten tournament title as a junior. He was drafted No. 6 overall by the Mavericks and became part of one of the more lopsided trades in NBA history (Traylor to the Bucks for Pat Garrity and Dirk Nowitzki). Traylor spent seven years in the league, but he was better known postcollege for his disassociation with Michigan after he was discovered to have accepted money from a booster. He was playing for the Bayamon Cowboys in Puerto Rico when police discovered his body at his oceanfront apartment.
By Phoenix Suns president and CEO Rick Welts, that he is gay, a disclosure that he hopes will strike at the stigma of homosexuality in sports. Welts's announcement is the latest influential step in an acclaimed 40-year basketball career: He created the NBA All-Star weekend in 1984, ran the '92 Dream Team marketing program, has presided over three Western Conference finals appearances by the Suns during his nine years in Phoenix and now hopes to mentor gay athletes interested in sports careers. Following the announcement, members of the NBA community backed Welts, including Suns guard Steve Nash, who opined, "Anyone who's not ready for this needs to catch up."
May 22, 2011
At age 28 of undetermined causes, Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard, who was found in his Minneapolis home with no signs of physical trauma. (Autopsy results are pending.) While remembered by teammates for his kindness and community service, the 6'7", 265-pound winger was signed by New York last summer to a four-year, $6.5 million contract because he was, as G.M. Glen Sather explained, "the biggest and toughest." And Boogaard delivered: He scored just one goal but racked up 45 penalty minutes in 22 games this season, extending a career that included 70 fights. His last tussle, however, resulted in a season-ending shoulder injury and a concussion, which tied his death to concerns about the long-term effects of brain injuries. Boogaard's family announced that it would donate his brain to the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy.
At age 54 of cardiac arrest after spending more than three years in a coma, former NFL running back Ron Springs. Drafted by Dallas out of Ohio State in 1979, Springs started for five years alongside Tony Dorsett before finishing in Tampa Bay with 2,519 career rushing yards and 38 touchdowns. His last 20 years were marked by a battle with diabetes that led to kidney failure, the amputation of his right foot and several toes on his left, and the curling of his hands into knots. In 2006, Springs received a kidney donation from former Cowboys teammate Everson Walls, with whom he started the Gift for Life Foundation. It was during surgery a year later to remove a cyst from his elbow that Springs went into the coma from which he never awoke.
At age 88 of complications from pneumonia, New York Daily News cartoonist Bill Gallo (below), whose work over seven decades captured the thrills and absurdities of the sports world. Gallo worked as a Daily News copyboy and fought with the Marines in World War II before taking the cartoonist position he held until his death. His recurring characters showed off his wit (a spike-helmeted General Von Steingrabber lampooned Yankees boss George Steinbrenner). But it was Gallo's sensitivity that made him more than a humorist: His image of Thurman Munson looking from the heavens on two distraught schoolboys following Munson's death in 1979 became one of his best-known works. In '98 the National Cartoonists Society presented Gallo with its highest honor, the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award.
At age 24 after falling from a bedroom balcony at his home, Sammy Wanjiru, who in 2008 became the first Kenyan to win an Olympic gold medal in the marathon. Initial police statements were unclear on the circumstances of Wanjiru's death, in his hometown of Nyahururu, reporting that he either committed suicide or jumped from the 19-foot balcony to chase his wife after she discovered him with another woman. Though slowed by injuries and personal troubles this year, Wanjiru had already become the youngest runner to win four major marathons, held the fastest nonaided time ever recorded in an American race and was a favorite to repeat as Olympic champion in '12 following his Olympic record time of 2:06:32 in '08.
At age 24 of unknown causes, Michael Baze, who was attempting to revive a promising career as a jockey before his body was discovered outside of Churchill Downs on May 10. The latest in a family of prominent jockeys that includes his cousin, Russell Baze, a U.S. Racing Hall of Famer, Baze in 2007 became the youngest horseman since Bill Shoemaker in 1950 to win a title at Hollywood Park. But personal troubles of late—including a separation from his wife, depression, cocaine-possession charges and a failed Breathalyzer test at a race—stalled his ascent. Baze was scheduled to meet with his agent about finding a new mount when police found his body inside his idling Cadillac Escalade.
THEY SAID IT
Soon-to-be-inducted Basketball Hall of Fame forward, on his individuality:
"If I had a best buddy, it would probably be Dennis Rodman."
Combined runs scored when Cuyama Valley (Calif.) beat Coast Union 48--47 last week, a national high school softball record.
200 √ó 80
Size, in feet, of the new HD video board at Charlotte Motor Speedway, eclipsing the 160-by-72-foot board at Cowboys Stadium as the world's largest.
Money earned last Saturday—$10,000 in fees plus $200,000 in sponsorships—by Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco for a PBR stunt in which he lasted 1.5 seconds on a bull named Deja Blue.
Total amount to be paid out by UFC in 2011 to fighters who gain the most followers and offer the most creative posts on Twitter.
Amount that the city of Glendale, Ariz., agreed to pay the NHL to ensure that the bankrupt Coyotes play at least one more year there.
Goals allowed by Swedish keeper Viktor Fasth to Finland in the third period of the hockey world championship final on Sunday, the same period during which it was announced that Fasth had been named tournament MVP. Finland won 6--1.