Former Portland Trail Blazers star Clifford Robinson dies at 53 – ESPN

Clifford Robinson, an early star in UConn’s rise to power who helped lead the Portland Trail Blazers to two NBA Finals, has died at the age of 53, the teams confirmed Saturday.

No cause of death was given, though former Huskies coach Jim Calhoun said Robinson had a stroke 2½ years ago.

Nicknamed “Uncle Cliffy” and known for his trademark headband, Robinson spent 18 seasons in the NBA, winning the 1993 Sixth Man of the Year award and earning an All-Star nod.

At 6-foot-11, he had the size of a center but was a skilled outside shooter, a predecessor of the modern NBA big man.

His streak of 461 consecutive games played with the Trail Blazers still stands as a franchise record, and Robinson ranks among the team’s all-time leaders in blocks (2nd), points (5th), games played (5th), steals (6th), 3-pointers (7th) and rebounds (10th).

“The Trail Blazers organization is deeply saddened by the passing of Trail Blazers great Cliff Robinson,” the team said in a statement. “… His personality and energy were unmatched, and his contributions on the court were unmistakable, helping the Trail Blazers into the playoffs each of his eight seasons with the team. … We extend our heartfelt condolences to Cliff’s family and loved ones. Uncle Cliffy will be greatly missed by the Trail Blazers and all of Rip City.”

Robinson also played for the Phoenix Suns, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors and New Jersey Nets. He made the 1994 NBA All-Star Game and was named to two NBA All-Defensive second teams while averaging 14.6 points and 4.6 rebounds in 1,380 career games — the 13th-most in NBA history.

Robinson, a native of Buffalo, New York, was the centerpiece of Calhoun’s early teams at UConn from 1985-89, helping guide the Huskies from the bottom of the Big East to the 1988 NIT championship.

“It’s really sad to hear of this, because he was one of my kids, my players, a guy I watched grow into a man,” Calhoun told The Associated Press. “It’s not an easy thing.”

UConn retired Robinson’s No. 00 in 2007.

“He was our first great player,” Calhoun said. “He gave legitimacy to the program. As a player coming in, here’s this guy playing on TV for the Trail Blazers, watching him play, watching UConn being mentioned. You could not pay for the exposure that he gave us.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.