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Clifford Robinson, former NBA All-Star and Sixth Man of the Year, has died at 53, the University of Connecticut basketball program confirmed the news early on Saturday morning. No cause of death has been announced.
A star at UConn, Robinson played four years with the Huskies under legendary head coach Jim Calhoun, helping the team win the NIT in 1988. He later had his number retired by the program, and Calhoun called him their « first great player. » He continued, « he was a good man, had a great career, and was instrumental in a lot of the great things that happened at UConn. »
After graduating from UConn, Robinson was drafted with the 36th overall pick in the second round of the 1989 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers. He grew into a key member of those great Portland teams of the late ’80s and early ’90s, helping them make the playoffs in all eight seasons he was there, including the Finals in 1990 and 1992.
In 1993 he was named Sixth Man of the Year, and in 1994 he made his first and only All-Star Game, but his most lasting memories in Portland may be for his signature headbands and celebratory dance called the « Uncle Cliffy, » which later became his nickname.
Following his time in Portland, he played for the Phoenix Suns, where he put together a 50-point game and made an All-Defensive Second Team in 2000, the Detroit Pistons, where he made another All-Defensive Second Team in 2002, the Golden State Warriors and the New Jersey Nets before retiring in 2007.
He finished his 18-year NBA journey with career averages of 14.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1 block and 1 steal per game. And at 6-10, he was one of the first big men to really stretch the floor, making 1,253 3-pointers for his career, on 35.6 percent shooting.
Suspended multiple times in his career for marijuana use, Robinson became an advocate for the drug after his playing days, and opened his own line of cannabis products in Portland called « Uncle Spliffy. » He was also a contestant on the reality TV show, « Survivor, » and made a trip to North Korea with Dennis Rodman.
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