Just a month after Stanley Robinson died suddenly at age 32, another member of the UConn basketball family, Cliff Robinson, died Saturday morning in Portland, Oregon. He was 53 years old.
Robinson played for the Huskies from 1985-89, becoming the first great player in the Jim Calhoun era.
“I’m very saddened by Cliff’s passing,” Calhoun said in a statement from UConn Athletics. “He had a lot to do with the great success we’ve had. I hope everybody realizes the contributions that he and the others from that era made to our program.”
Robinson died after a yearlong battle with lymphoma, according to a statement from his family.
Robinson was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, and came to UConn as a 6-foot-10 power forward. In his first season, he struggled, but after Calhoun’s arrival in 1986, he became the team’s leading scorer in his next three seasons. He helped bring the Huskies to national prominence as a major part of the 1988 NIT Championship, earning a spot on the All-Tournament Team. That season marked the first national title of any kind for UConn basketball.
Robinson was also a two-time All-Big East selection, making the third team as a junior and the second team as a senior. When he left UConn, he was fourth on the all-time scoring list, and he stands at 13th today with 1,664 points. In 109 games as a Husky, he averaged 15.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. He is one of just five UConn players with multiple 600-point seasons and one of just 15 to average 20 points per game in a season, a feat he accomplished his senior year.
Robinson has the distinction of being the only Husky to ever wear No. 00 on his uniform, and that number hangs on the wall at Gampel Pavilion today in the Huskies of Honor, where he was inducted in 2007.
After leaving Storrs, Robinson was drafted by the Portland Trailblazers with the 36th overall pick in the 1989 NBA Draft. He went on to have a very successful 18-year career in the NBA with the Trailblazers, the Phoenix Suns, the Detroit Pistons, the Golden State Warriors and the New Jersey Nets. As a member of the Trailblazers, he helped lead the team to two NBA Finals appearances in 1990 and 1992.
Known by his nickname “Uncle Cliffy,” Robinson made one All-Star team in 1994, and he was named the 1992-93 NBA Sixth Man of the Year. He also was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team in 2000 and 2002.
Never a superstar, but always a consistent and durable player, Robinson appeared in 1,380 games, good for 14th all time. His streak of 461 consecutive games with the Trailblazers to begin his career still stands as the franchise record.
Overall, Robinson totaled 19,591 points (14.2 per game), 6,306 rebounds (4.6 per game) and 3,094 assists (2.2 per game) in his long career, while also being an efficient 3-point shooter (.356) for a player his size. In fact, he is one of just four players in NBA history with at least 19,000 points, 6,000 rebounds, 3,000 assists and 1,000 3-pointers made while shooting at least 35% from 3-point range. The others are Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce and Vince Carter.
Robinson retired from the NBA in 2007, but he remained in the public eye, appearing on the TV show “Survivor” in 2014 and advocating for the legalization of marijuana. He even used his “Uncle Cliffy” nickname to start a cannabis business in Oregon a few years ago. He suffered a stroke in 2017 but had recovered before his battle with lymphoma.
Robinson is survived by his mother, sister, three brothers and six children, according to his family’s statement.