Sports

Clippers Announcers Apologize after Joking about Deceased Ex-NBA Player Involved in Dirk Nowitzki Trade

Two Los Angeles Clippers announcers have found themselves at the center of controversy after seemingly ridiculing a deceased former NBA player.

During Monday night’s matchup against the Dallas Mavericks at the Staples Center, the Clippers paid tribute to soon-to-be-retired Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki, who was making what was in all likelihood his last appearance at the arena.

As part of the discuission, Clippers announcers Don MacLean and Ralph Lawler discussed the trade that took the German to Dallas on draft day in 1998 along with Pat Garrity.

In exchange for Nowitzki, the Milwaukee Bucks, who had selected him with the ninth overall pick, received Robert Traylor. It was to be one of the most lopsided trades in NBA history, as Nowitzki developed into a 14-time All-Star and led the Mavericks to their maiden NBA title in 2011.

Traylor, meanwhile, left Milwaukee in 2000, before two spells in Cleveland followed, with stints in Charlotte and New York sandwiched in between.

"I guess Milwaukee didn’t see it either, they drafted [Nowitzki] and then traded him to Dallas draft day, for Robert 'Tractor' Traylor. Who's he playing for now?” enquired MacLean jokingly.

Lawler’s reply did not take long: “The, uh, Detroit YMCA over-40 league.”

In itself, joking about a trade that went spectacularly bad for one franchise is neither new nor particularly controversial. Except that Traylor doesn’t play for the Detroit YMCA over-40 league, as he prematurely died of heart attack at the age of just 34 in 2011.

Eventually both MacLean and Lawler realized the mistake and issued an apology during the second quarter.

"We made light earlier that [Nowitzki] was traded from Milwaukee to Dallas in exchange for Robert 'Tractor' Traylor,” Lawler said.

“I was wondering what Robert 'Tractor' Traylor was doing today—totally slipping my mind and I guess Don’s mind that he passed away a couple of years ago. So, may he rest in peace, and our apologies.”

MacLean echoed his colleague's thoughts and added: "Yeah, apologies. I didn’t realize that."

A star at the University of Michigan in the post-Fab Five era, Traylor was selected with the number six overall pick in the 1998 draft but never fulfilled his potential.

Traylor started 43 games in his rookie season in Milwaukee, more than he would in his next six campaigns in the league combined. Over his seven seasons in the league, he never averaged more than 5.7 points per game and 17.9 minutes on the court, in the 2000-01 and 2004-05 season, respectively.

After his second spell in Cleveland ended, Traylor moved to Europe, playing in Spain, Turkey and Italy with a spell in Puerto Rico in between. He returned to Puerto Rico in 2010 and had a fleeting spell in Mexico, before ending his playing career in April 2011.

Less than a month later, he was found dead at his apartment in Puerto Rico after suffering a heart attack.

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