Cliff Robinson, Former NBA All-Star and Survivor Contestant, Dies at 53

Cliff Robinson, who was known as "Uncle Cliffy" and sported a trademark headband, played for 18 seasons in the NBA

Cliff Robinson
Photo: Steve DiPaoli/NBAE via Getty Image

Cliff Robinson, an All-Star athlete who played 18 seasons in the NBA, has died at the age of 53.

Robinson, who was known as "Uncle Cliffy" and sported a trademark headband, played for the Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors and the New Jersey Nets. The forward/center was named to the All-Star game in 1994 and won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 1993.

The 6'10" Robinson is an alumnus of the University of Connecticut. After college, he was a second round draft pick for the Blazers.

After retiring in 2007, Robinson remained in the public eye.

In 2013, he traveled to the Philippines to compete on Survivor: Cagayan. The season's theme was "Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty." Robinson was placed on the "Brawn" tribe. Although he planned to keep his identity secret, another contestant instantly recognized him. He was the fifth contestant to be voted out, and he finished the game in 14th place.

Cliff Robinson (left) and Sarah Lacina (right) on Survivor Cagayan. Monty Brinton/CBS

At the time, Robinson told PEOPLE that competing on the long-running reality show was more challenging than his years playing basketball.

"It’s the hardest experience," he told PEOPLE. "I don’t think you can fully appreciate how tough it is until you play it. It’s tougher than the NBA without a doubt."

Robinson had faced several health problems in recent years. In 2017, he suffered a brain hemorrhage that paralyzed the left side of his body. He eventually regained much of his arm and leg movement.


Shortly after the hemorrhage, he told the Portland Tribune that his fans helped him recover. "The outpouring of love and encouragement from so many people has helped me stay positive," he told the paper. "To go from walking and talking and doing what you want to, in the blink of an eye, not being able to do is so upsetting. I can see how people can get discouraged. The support I've received from everyone has helped me be able to deal with this a whole lot better."

In March 2018, Robinson had a tumor removed from his jaw. He later tweeted that the tumor was not cancerous.

Robinson is survived by his wife of 17 years, Heather, and a son, Isaiah.

A cause of death was not immediately released. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

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