Cliff Robinson, the former Portland Trail Blazers star whose mix of skills and size made him a prototype for the modern NBA big man, has died. He was 53 years old. A cause of death has not been announced.
After playing at the University of Connecticut, Robinson—known to fans as Uncle Cliffy—was drafted by the Blazers in 1989, and although he'd go on to play with four other teams, his most productive years were spent in Portland.
During his eight years with the Blazers, he went to the NBA Finals twice, was named to the All-Star team in 1994 and is among the franchise's all-time leaders in blocks, points, steals, threes and games played.
At 6-foot-11, Robinson was tall enough to play center yet possessed outside shooting skills that were then rare for someone his size. He's also credited with helping popularize wearing headbands during games.
During his 18-year career, Robinson was suspended three times for cannabis use. After retiring in 2007, he became an advocate for legalized weed and even marketed his own line of cannabis products: Uncle Spliffy.
"I think what a lot of guys [in the NBA] have struggled with, and probably myself as well, is finding the next thing," he told WW in 2016. "This was a natural fit for me. Why not take something that's been perceived as a negative in my life and through my career and turn it into a positive?"