Cliff Robinson, a former star at the university of Connecticut who played 18 seasons in the NBA, died at the age of 53, his alma mater announced Saturday.
A family statement announced Robinson had been fighting a year-long battle with lymphoma.
The 6-foot-10 forward/centre played at UConn from 1985-89, helping the Huskies win the 1988 NIT.
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“He was our first great player,” former UConn coach Jim Calhoun told Hearst 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 later struggled with his health, suffering a stroke in 2017 that paralysed the left side of his body. Robinson regained much of his arm and leg movement, and also had a tumour removed from his jaw in 2018.
On Sunday, Robinson’s family released a statement confirming the 53-year-old passed away due to a lengthy battle with lymphoma.
Known as “Uncle Cliffy,” Robinson was a second-round pick (38th overall) of the Trail Blazers in 1989 and spent the first eight years of his career in Portland, helping the franchise reach the NBA Finals in 1990 and 1992.
He was named to one All-Star game in 1994 and won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 1993. He also was named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year in 1993.
Robinson later played for the Suns, Pistons, Warriors and Nets before retiring with New Jersey in 2007. His 1,380 NBA games played rank 13th all-time, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
“I had the pleasure of battling with Cliff for 13 years. He was a warrior on the court and an even better man off it,” tweeted Knicks legend and current Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing.
Rex Chapman, who played with Robinson in Phoenix, tweeted: “Devastated with the passing of one of the best teammates ever – Clifford Robinson. Guy absolutely loved to hoop. Never missed practice. Guarded the toughest guy every night and was a walking bucket. A great dad. Laughed every day.”
Donyell Marshall, a fellow UConn basketball alumnus, wrote: “I’m so glad it’s raining today. I’m gonna need it to hide my tears. Not my big bro man. Uncle Cliffy taught me all I needed to know to be a stretch 4 in the NBA. UConn family has lost another great one. RIP Uncle Cliffy.”
Following his NBA career, Robinson starred on the CBS reality show “Survivor” and became an activist for legalising marijuana, even becoming a proprietor of the drug.
“If you play 18 years in the NBA and perform over an 82-game schedule, you’re going to deal with anxiety issues and your ability to relax,” Robinson told the Las Vegas Sun in 2018. “Cannabis has always helped me with that.”
This article originally appeared on the NY Post and was reproduced with permission.