The Nuggets’ legendary trainer Robert “Chopper” Travaglini. He was that well-known and, more importantly, that well-liked. Only good friend, Dan Issel, could get away with calling him “Bobby”. Travaglini was perhaps the most famous trainer in the NBA and certainly the league’s most colorful healer of million-dollar athletes. And it wasn’t just his ability to wrap sore ankles or nurse sore muscles that made Travaglini the beloved figure he was. He was also the best amateur psychologist in the league. Players from virtually every team in the league considered him a friend and confidante. Chopper’s influence and circle of friends extended beyond sports. All you had to do was check the “Wall of Fame” in his McNichols Arena office; it included pictures and autographs from the famous and near-famous, from all walks of life.
Travaglini taught himself to be a trainer. Before becoming involved in professional basketball, he served as a trainer for the Philadelphia Bulldogs of the Continental Football League (1964-65), the Pottstown Firebirds (1966) and the Jersey Jets (1968-69) of the Atlantic Coast Football League.
Travaglini served as the Nuggets trainer in the team’s glory years from 1976-90. During that time, he was a fixture in the lobby coffee shops of team’s road hotels. He was a legendary storyteller and he became a legend to players, coaches, broadcasters and fans.
Before coming to the Nuggets, Travaglini was the trainer for the Virginia Squires of the ABA for seven years. He broke the professional basketball ranks with the ABA’s Washington Capitols in 1969 and moved with the team to Virginia the following season.
After his retirement from the Nuggets, “Chopper’ became the president of the Denver Nuggets Community Fund. He created “Chopper’s Dinner” in the late 1980’s and the event has become the largest fund-raiser for the Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche. The annual event raises over $200,000 each year for local children’s charities.
Travaglini was born on June 27, 1932 in Woodbury, New Jersey, but came back to truly love his adopted Colorado home and its people. And they loved him back. Travaglini passed away in 1999 after a long battle with complications from Cancer. He was 66.
Today’s NBA players are poorer for not having learned about the league and about life from “Chopper” Travaglini.
The Nuggets’ legendary trainer Robert “Chopper” Travaglini.