Cliff Robinson, 18-year NBA veteran and legendary UConn player, has died at age 53. Robinson’s family released a statement Saturday night announcing he had been fighting a year-long battle with lymphoma.
Robinson, born in Buffalo, New York, in 1966, was instrumental to setting up UConn as a national contender in college basketball. Coach Jim Calhoun was hired in Robinson’s sophomore year, and the change in coaching paid off in a big way. Robinson learned how to fit into Calhoun’s plans and together they helped UConn gain national notice for the first time ever when they won the NIT championship in 1988.
That set the stage for UConn’s future prominence, and Calhoun said on Saturday that Robinson was UConn’s first great player.
Jim Calhoun on Cliff Robinson: “He was our first great player... he came from a difficult background in Buffalo, I watched him evolve as a man ... he was a good man, had a great career, and was instrumental in a lot of the great things that happened at UConn.”— David Borges (@DaveBorges) August 29, 2020
In 1999, Robinson was named to UConn’s All-Century Team. His number, 00, was retired by UConn in 2007.
After Robinson graduated in 1989, he was picked in the second round by the Portland Trail Blazers, kicking off an 18-year NBA career. He would play for the Blazers for eight years, making the playoffs each time and helping take the Blazers to the NBA Finals in 1990 and 1992, though they lost both times. He was the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year in 1993 and an All-Star in 1994. He played 461 straight games for the Blazers to start his career, which still stands as a franchise record.
After leaving the Blazers, Robinson signed with the Phoenix Suns, where he’d stay for four seasons. He spent time with the Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, and New Jersey Nets before retiring in 2007. He violated the NBA’s drug policy a few times during his career, the first time in 2001 when he was arrested for marijuana possession and driving under the influence. He was suspended one game. He was suspended five games in 2005 and again in 2006 for marijuana use.
After retirement, Robinson turned his love of marijuana into a business. He became a supporter of legalization and established the “Uncle Cliffy” brand of cannabis products. He was also a contestant on the reality show “Survivor” in 2013.
Robinson suffered a brain hemorrhage in 2017, which caused him to have a stroke. He also had a tumor removed from his jaw in 2018, which Robinson announced on his Twitter account.
The basketball world mourns Robinson’s death
When the news of Robinson’s death broke on Saturday morning, the response on social media was immediate. Fans, friends, and players shared their memories and celebrated his accomplishments amid an outpouring of sympathy for the much-loved Uncle Cliffy.
The Trail Blazers organization is deeply saddened by the passing of Trail Blazers great Cliff Robinson. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Cliff’s family & loved ones. Uncle Cliffy will be greatly missed by the Trail Blazers & all of Rip City.https://t.co/X4ixK1XCPT pic.twitter.com/0njgpimiBH— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) August 29, 2020
We’re shocked and saddened by the passing of Clifford Robinson. Clifford was a consummate professional who loved the game and played with an incredible sense of both joy and intensity. We extend our thoughts and prayers to family and friends of “Uncle Cliffy” during this time. pic.twitter.com/LLqFjJUHkh— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) August 29, 2020
The UConn Basketball family mourns the loss of a legendary player and person, Clifford Robinson. Our thoughts and prayers are with Cliff’s family at this difficult time 🙏— UConn Men's Basketball (@UConnMBB) August 29, 2020
Rest In Peace, Cliff. pic.twitter.com/Bp6Z5hbVUb
Cliff Robinson is also one of 3 players (w/ Sheed & Dirk) in NBA history with more than 1,000 3PTS, BLKS & STLS.— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) August 29, 2020
Best Game: 50 PTS (17/26 FG)
People forget just how important Cliff Robinson was to those early @DetroitPistons teams in '01 and '02. Durable as hell, reliable scorer, good teammate.— Isaac (@WorldofIsaac) August 29, 2020
Helped create the foundation for the '04 championship team.
R.I.P. Uncle Cliff pic.twitter.com/I45kAhReMs
RIP Clifford Robinson - some of my earliest memories of NBA basketball were of you as the lifeblood to those early/mid 90’s Blazers teams. The Memorial Coliseum days!! RIP to a Portland legend.— Kevin Love (@kevinlove) August 29, 2020
We are saddened to learn that #Survivor (and NBA) legend Cliff Robinson has died at 53, confirmed by news sources.— Survivor Reddit (@Survivor_Reddit) August 29, 2020
"Uncle Cliffy" was an instrumental part of making Season 28: Cagayan as good as it was. He was also the first former NBA player on the show. pic.twitter.com/5Jkh3TRPEk
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