Former NBA player Clifford Robinson has died at 53, the University of Connecticut confirmed on Saturday. A cause of death has not been provided.
Robinson, who later became a marijuana advocate in his post-NBA career, played 18 years in the league, starting in Portland, where he played a key role on the Blazers’ Western Conference championship teams in 1989-90 and 1991-92. The Blazers lost to Detroit in the 1990 NBA Finals and Chicago in the 1992 Finals.
At 6-foot-10, 225 pounds, Robinson played center, power forward and small forward during his career in which he averaged 14.2 points and 4.6 rebounds. He made a name for himself as a scorer and defender. He averaged at least 20 points three times during his NBA career, including a career-high 21.3 in 1994-95. He made the All-Star team in 1994, was named Sixth Man of the Year in 1992-93 and was second-team All-Defense in 1999-2000 and 2001-02.
In a statement released Saturday, the Golden State Warriors said, “Clifford was the consummate professional who loved the game and played with an incredible sense of both joy and intensity during his outstanding 18-year career, including two seasons with the Warriors.”
In today’s game, he would have found a spot as stretch four or five with his ability to make three-pointers. In 2000, he scored a career-high 50 points on 17-for-26 shooting. Though not a big deal now, he made four threes in a game 12 times in his career, including seven in a game in 2004.
Robinson was also reliable. He played all 82 games in a season seven times and played in at least 70 games nine other times. He is 13th on the NBA’s all-time games played list and 23rd all-time in minutes played.
In addition to the Blazers, he played for the Phoenix Suns, Detroit Pistons, Warriors and New Jersey Nets and retired following the 2006-07 season.
Born in Buffalo, New York, in 1966, Robinson played college ball at UConn, where he helped transform the Huskies into a national power under coach Jim Calhoun. The Huskies never played in the NCAA tournament during Robinson’s time, but they emerged right after he graduated. He was a significant part of putting UConn on the college basketball map for the next two decades.
During his NBA career, Robinson was arrested for possession of marijuana and driving under the influence and twice received a five-game suspension for violating terms of the league’s anti-drug policy.
Robinson later acknowledged he was wrong but became a marijuana advocate and launched a line of Uncle Spliffy’s marijuana products after his playing days. He traveled the country speaking to groups and lawmakers about the benefits of marijuana as an alternative to prescription drugs while trying to destigmatize the use of the drug.
“We’ve always had a good relationship,” he told Vice Sports. “It’s always been a way to calm myself. Calm myself, calm my stomach. It’s always been that calming influence in my life.”
In 2017, he sustained a brain hemorrhage and spent more than a month in the hospital. In 2014, Robinson was part of a Dennis Rodman-led team that played in North Korea in front of leader Kim Jong Un.