Former Mavericks’ center Roy Tarpley has died at age 50. Cause of death was not immediately known, although when the Mavericks arrived in Los Angeles for their game Saturday against the Clippers, several members of the traveling party had been informed that liver failure was to blame.

The 6-11 Tarpley was the seventh pick in the 1986 draft by the Mavericks out of Michigan. In his second season, he was the NBA’s sixth man of the year before drugs and controversy shrouded the rest of his six seasons in the league.

According to a medical examiner’s report, Tarpley’s death happened at Texas Arlington Health Memorial Hospital. It is a sad ending to one of the most gifted talents ever to play for the franchise. Tarpley had a rare combination of strength and speed that made him one of the best athletes of his era.

Current Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said on Twitter, “Our condolences go out to the family of Roy Tarpley. RIP Roy. Mavs fans everywhere will remember you fondly.”

He would spend most of his career battling personal problems.

He was suspended by the NBA five games into the 1989-90 season after being arrested for driving while intoxicated and resisting arrest. In 1991, he drew another suspension after a second DWI arrest and months later, he had a third violation and was banned from the league for violating the NBA’s drug-use policies.

He returned to the Mavericks briefly in 1994 but then was permanently barred in December, 1995, for violating terms of his aftercare program.

Tarpley’s abilities on the court were never a problem.

In 280 games, he averaged 12.6 points and 10 rebounds. In the 1987-88 season, he averaged 17.9 points and 12.9 rebounds in 17 playoff games as the Mavericks reached the Western Conference finals.

Tarpley had played for various teams overseas and most recently played for the Michigan Mayhem of the Continental Basketball Association in 2005-06.


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