Cliff Robinson, the former Portland Trailblazers basketball star who also played for UConn during its rise to prominence in college basketball, has died at age 53 of unknown causes, both teams announced on Saturday.
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
Former Huskies coach Jim Calhoun told the Associated Press that Robinson had a stroke 2 1/2 years ago and went into a coma last week.
“It’s really sad to hear of this, because he was one of my kids, my players, a guy I watched grow into a man,” Calhoun said. “It’s not an easy thing.”
Robinson’s NBA career
Robinson played 18 seasons in the NBA. He was known for wearing a headband and was at some point given the nickname “Uncle Cliffy,” ESPN reported.
Cliff stood 6 feet 11 inches tall, with the size of a center but the skill to shoot from outside. ESPN said he was the precursor to the modern NBA “big man.”
He was a major factor in leading the Trail Blazers to two NBA finals and won the 1993 Sixth Man of the Year award along with an All-Star appearance.
He played 461 consecutive games with the Trail Blazers, a current franchise record. He also ranked near the top for the team in blocks (2nd), points (5th), games played (5th), steals (6th), 3-pointers (7th), and rebounds (10th).
Robinson averaged 14.6 points and 4.6 rebounds in his 1,380 career games, which puts him in 13th place for all of the NBA. Besides the Trail Blazers, he also played for the Phoenix Suns, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, and New Jersey Nets during his career.
Robinson lauded by teams
“Clifford was the consummate professional who loved the game and played with an incredible sense of both joy and intensity during his outstanding 18-year career,” the Warriors said in a statement.
Robinson shared an honorary moment of silence with actor Chadwick Boseman and Arizona coach Lute Olson at the start of Saturday’s NBA playoff game between Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic.
“He was our first great player,” ESPN reported Calhoun as saying. “You could not pay for the exposure that he gave us.”