Former NBA, UConn Star Clifford Robinson Dies at 53

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 29, 2020

The Chicago Bulls' Horace Grant, right, gets tangled up with Portland Trail Blazers' Cliff Robinson as Grant tries to hold him back during first quarter of Game 1 of the NBA Finals in Chicago, Wednesday, June 3, 1992. The Bulls won 122-89. (AP Photo/John Swart)
JOHN SWART/Associated Press

Former Portland Trail Blazers All-Star forward Clifford Robinson has died at the age of 53.

The University of Connecticut, his alma mater, announced the news Saturday on Twitter:

UConn Men's Basketball @UConnMBB

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 🙏 Rest In Peace, Cliff. https://t.co/Bp6Z5hbVUb

"He was our first great player," former UConn coach Jim Calhoun told David Borges of Hearst Connecticut Media. "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."

Robinson's family later released a statement saying Robinson died from lymphoma, per Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic:

Shams Charania @ShamsCharania

Family of 18-year NBA vet Cliff Robinson releases statement to @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium, announcing he passed away due to yearlong battle with lymphoma. https://t.co/3DWLnC8Twe

Robinson was a standout performer at Riverside High School—he earned All-Western New York honors for the Frontiers as a senior and was later named to the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 2009 following his playing career—and he caught the eye of Calhoun.

After playing a limited role as a freshman, he developed into a major contributor for the Huskies over his final three collegiate seasons. He averaged 20.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks as a senior before getting selected by the Blazers in the second round of the 1989 draft.

He emerged as a valuable role player for Portland and was named the NBA Sixth Man of the Year for the 1992-93 season before earning his lone All-Star appearance in 1994.

Robinson later played for the Phoenix Suns, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors and New Jersey Nets before his retirement in 2007.

In 2016, he told Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News he always played with a chip on his shoulder.

"Right from the beginning as a second-round pick, I thought I was underrated," Robinson said. "Throughout my career, whether it be coming out of Buffalo, where they thought some guys were probably better than me, to when people thought some Big East players were better than me, I always was able to use that as motivation. But I knew what kind of player I was, so that tag never bothered me."

After his playing days, he appeared on the reality show Survivor as part of the Survivor: Cagayan season that aired in 2014. He was the fifth person voted off the island.

Robinson suffered a brain hemorrhage in 2017 that left him temporarily paralyzed on the left side of his body.