Cliff Robinson, who starred at UConn in the 1980s and went on to a long NBA career, helping to redefine the role of big men in basketball, died Friday night.
Robinson’s family confirmed his passing Saturday morning to WGRZ-TV in Buffalo, according to reporter Claudine Ewing.
Robinson, from Buffalo, arrived at UConn in 1985 to play for Dom Perno, who was fired after that season. One of the players inherited by Jim Calhoun, Robinson ultimately adapted to the change in coaching and helped the Huskies win the NIT championship in 1988, the program’s first major triumph on a national stage, setting the stage for its future prominence. He averaged 15.6 points and 6.1 rebounds in 109 games for the Huskies.
Robinson’s number, 00, was retired at UConn as he entered the Huskies of Honor in 2007, and he was named to the program’s all-century team in 1999.
Drafted in the second round by the Trail Blazers, Robinson played in the NBA from 1989-2007, with the Blazers, Suns, Pistons, Warriors and Nets. He led Portland to the NBA Finals in 1990 and 92, was the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year in 1993 and an all-star in 1994. He played in 461 games in a row at the start of his career, still a Portland franchise record.
During the playoffs in ’92, Robinson performed a victory dance he called the “Uncle Cliffy,” and that nickname stuck with him.
Robinson was arrested for possession of marijuana and driving under the influence in 2001, and suspended for one game in 2006 for violating the NBA’s drug policy. After his retirement, he became a leading proponent of legalizing marijuana and its use for medicinal purposes, opening up a dispensary in Oregon in 2017, the year he recovered from a brain hemorrhage.
As a player, Robinson was a forerunner of the modern “stretch four,” a power forward who had the added dimension of perimeter shooting; at the time of his retirement, he was the tallest player to make more than 1,000 3-point goals in the league, a mark now held by Dirk Nowitzki. Robinson averaged 14.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists across 1,380 games in the NBA.
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