Tarpley died Friday afternoon at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital, according to a Tarrant County medical examiner's report. No cause of death was given in the online report.
The Dallas Morning News reported that the Mavericks players who had traveled to Los Angeles to play the Clippers on Saturday were told the cause was liver failure.
Tarpley, nearly 7 feet tall, was the seventh pick in the 1986 NBA draft out of the University of Michigan. He made the league's all-rookie team, and in his second season he was voted the NBA's sixth man of the year, before drugs and controversy shrouded the rest of his six seasons in the league.
In 1987-88, he averaged 17.1 points and 15 rebounds in a career-high 81 games. He helped Dallas reach the Western Conference finals that season, averaging 17.9 points and 12.9 rebounds in 17 playoff games. Dallas lost to the Lakers, the eventual champions, in seven games.
Tarpley was suspended by the NBA five games into the 1989-90 season after being arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated and resisting arrest. In 1991, he drew another suspension after a second DUI arrest. Months later, he had a third violation and was banned from the league for violating the NBA's drug use policies.
He played in Greece until the NBA reinstated him in 1994. He signed a six-year, $20-million contract with the Mavericks but was permanently banned from the NBA in December 1995 for using alcohol and violating the terms of a court-imposed personal aftercare program.
Tarpley's abilities on the court were never a problem. In 280 NBA games, he averaged 12.6 points and 10 rebounds.
Tarpley had played for various teams overseas and most recently played for the Michigan Mayhem of the Continental Basketball Assn. in 2005-06.
Roy James Tarpley Jr. was born Nov. 28, 1964, in New York City. He attended high school in Detroit, then starred at Michigan.
"Our condolences go out to the family of Roy Tarpley," Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tweeted. "RIP Roy. Mavs fans everywhere will remember you fondly."