UConn men’s basketball legend, longtime NBA veteran, reality show contestant and marijuana entrepreneur Cliff Robinson passed away early Saturday morning, according to numerous social media posts. He was 53 years old.
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
Robinson was one of the first program-changing players at UConn. After Jim Calhoun took over the program during his sophomore season, the 6-foot-10 Buffalo, New York native was a dominant force in Storrs. Robinson played sparingly as a freshman but broke out as a sophomore, averaging over 18 points and seven rebounds in 16 games.
During his junior season, Robinson led the Huskies to their first taste of postseason success in the Jim Calhoun Era, winning 1988 NIT title thanks to stellar season from Robinson, who averaged 17.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and more than one steal, assist and block per game and was named to the all-tournament team.
Robinson finished his time at UConn with the best season of his career, averaging 20 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists to earn second team All-Big East honors. While he didn’t make the NCAA tournament during his collegiate career, he was in integral part of building the foundation of Calhoun’s early days, and their NIT title in 1988 helped pave the way for UConn’s breakthrough “Dream Season” in the 1989-1990 season.
“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,” Calhoun told the New Haven Register’s Dave Borges.
Robinson was named to UConn’s all-century team in 1999 and was part of the inaugural class of the Huskies of Honor, where his No. 00 jersey was hung on the Gampel Pavilion walls alongside fellow Husky greats like Ray Allen, Donyell Marshall, Emeka Okafor and Chris Smith.
Following his college career, Robinson embarked on the longest NBA career of any former Husky. He was selected with the No. 36 pick in the 1989 NBA draft by the Portland Trail Blazers and went on to play 19 seasons and 1,380 games in the NBA. Prior to the NBA’s 3-point revolution, he was the only player over 6-foot-10 to make more than 1,000 3-pointers in his career.
Robinson averaged 14.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game during his NBA tenure, and shot 35.6 percent from three for his career. His best season came in 1993, where he averaged 20.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game and was named an NBA All-Star. Robinson was also named the 1992-93 Sixth Man of the Year and was a two-time All-Defensive team selection. When he retired after the 2007 season, he finished in the top 10 all-time in games played and suited up for the Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, Detroit Pistons, New Jersey Nets and Golden State Warriors.
After his lengthy NBA career came to an end, Robinson remained active, appearing on the 28th installment of Survivor in 2014 and finishing in 14th place. Later that year, he joined Dennis Rodman, Kenny Anderson, Vin Baker and other former NBA stars in North Korea, where he played an exhibition match against the North Korean Senior National Team in front of Kim Jong Un.
More recently, Robinson was involved in the growing legal marijuana business back in Oregon. After earning the nickname “Uncle Cliffy” from his teammates, Robinson named his marijuana venture “Uncle Spliffy.” For years until his passing Robinson was a vocal advocate against ending the stigma around marijuana and its usage.