Former NBA All-star Clifford Robinson has died at the age of 53, the University of Connecticut Huskies confirmed on Twitter on Saturday. His alma mater did not announce the cause of death.
“The UConn Basketball family mourns the loss of a legendary player and person, Clifford Robinson,” UConn Men’s Basketball tweeted Saturday. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Cliff’s family at this difficult time. Rest In Peace, Cliff.”
Robinson spent 18 seasons in the NBA, playing with the Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors and New Jersey Nets. In 1993, he won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year, an award given to the league’s best performing player coming off the bench as a substitute.
Clifford made the 1994 NBA All-Star Game and was a two-time member of the NBA All-Defensive Second Team in 2000 and 2002. According to ESPN, he averaged 14.6 points and 4.6 rebounds in 1,380 career games — the 13th-most in NBA history.
Former Huskies coach Jim Calhoun told The Associated Press that Robinson had a stroke 2 1/2 years ago.
“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…He was our first great player. He gave legitimacy to the program.”
Robinson, a cannabis entrepreneur known as “Uncle Cliffy,” won an NIT title when he played for UConn from 1985 to 1989. The team retired his number, “00,” in 2007.
“The Trail Blazers organization is deeply saddened by the passing of Trail Blazers great Cliff Robinson,” the Portland Trail Blazers said in a statement. “His personality and energy were unmatched, and his contributions on the court were unmistakable, helping the Trail Blazers into the playoffs each of his eight seasons with the team…Uncle Cliffy will be greatly missed by the Trail Blazers and all of Rip City.”
“We’re shocked and saddened by the passing of Clifford Robinson,” the Golden State Warriors tweeted. “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.”
In 2014, Clifford competed in the 28th season of “Survivor,” finishing in 14th place in a season dubbed, “Brains vs. Brawn Beauty.”
On the remote island of Cagayan, in the Philippines, Clifford played with the “Brawn” tribe. He tried to keep his identity a secret, but fellow contestant Woo Hwang recognized the former basketball player.
Clifford is survived by his wife, Heather Lufkins, and son, Isaiah Robinson.