One of the most memorable icons of the ’90s NBA, Cliff Robinson, passed away on Saturday at 53 years of age. Today, honoring his life, we take a look back at his remarkable 18-year long NBA journey, during which the teams he played for missed the playoffs only once!
It was the dawning of the 1990s. For the first time since 1977, which seemed so long ago, the Blazers were on a mission of taking over the very top of the NBA. The Blazermania was back!
It was 6’10” Clifford Robinson, who boosted the second unit with tremendous energy and versatility while coming off the bench for head coach Rick Adelman. The rookie from Connecticut could hold his own against any frontcourt player in the league. On offense, he could score on anyone, from inside or outside.
Blazers soon realized that they got a ‘steal’ in a relatively weak 1989 NBA draft, selecting the UConn star with the 36th overall pick. Coach Adelman continued to show trust and develop Robinson, who became his’ secret weapon for the team that has reached the ’90 and ’92 NBA Finals.
In the grueling Western Conference Finals against the mighty Utah Jazz, Robinson celebrated the Blazers memorable game four win with a winning dance, which earned him the nickname Uncle Cliffy.
Blazers’ Ironman’, who still holds the franchise record with 461 consecutive games, peaked with the Blazers back in 1993 when he won the NBA Sixth man of the year award.
A year later, the player who was never shy of guarding some of the top league’s big man, averaged a career-high 20.1 points per game and earned his first and only All-Star game appearance. Playing for the Western Conference All-Star squad in Minneapolis, he contributed 10 points, five assists, and two boards.
With most of the Blazers’ early 1990s team nucleus gone by 1995, he became instrumental in integrating new players like European sensation Arvydas Sabonis, Rasheed Wallace, J.R. Rider, and Kenny Anderson in a winning organization’s northwestern climate.
Even though Derrick Coleman is considered the originator of the ‘stretch four’ Robinson was the first NBA frontcourt player who took full advantage of the three-point arc, especially when the line was moved closer to the basket, from ’94/’95 until ’96/’97 regular season. During that time, Uncle Cliffy was able to connect on an incredible total of 341 long-distance shots!
Robinson hit the incredible total of 1253 triples in his career, which made him the tallest player ever to score more than 1000 triples until Dirk Nowitzki and Rashard Lewis later surpassed him.
After eight seasons in Oregon during which the Blazers never missed making the postseason, Robinson signed as a free agent with the Phoenix Suns on August 25, 1997. In sunny Arizona, Robinson continued to shine, supplying the team with his energy and versatility at the small forward position, playing alongside Jason Kidd, Penny Hardaway, Shawn Marion, Rodney Rogers, and Tom Gugliotta.
In Phoenix, Robinson registered his most memorable career-performance by scoring 50 points against the Denver Nuggets on January 16, 2000. By doing that at 33 years and two months of age, at the time, he became the oldest player ever to register his first career 50-point performance.
From Phoenix, Uncle Cliffy was traded to the Detroit Pistons on June 29, 2001. In Motown, he immediately clicked and became one of the essential parts of the excitingly rejuvenated squad’s rotation. The Pistons, coached by the 2002 NBA Coach of the Year Rick Carlisle, went deep into the playoffs in both of Robinson’s seasons with the team, laying the solid cornerstone for winning the 2004 championship.
After losing the Eastern Conference finals in 2003 from New Jersey, Nets Robinson was traded to the Golden State Warriors for combo guard Bobby Sura. After covering the power forward and center position for the struggling Bay Area team, he was traded to the New Jersey Nets.
After a three-year stay in Jersey, during which he supplied the Nets with his veteran experience of the bench, the 40-year-old veteran concluded his remarkable 18-year-long NBA career. Before his retirement, he and Kevin Willis were the only active NBA players who began their careers in the 1980s.
Robinson appeared in a total of 1380 regular season games averaging 14.2ppg, 4.6rpg, and 2.2apg. More importantly, his teams made the postseason each of his seasons, except for the 2003-04 Golden State Warriors. He appeared in 141 postseason games averaging 10.3ppg and 3.9rpg.
53-year old Robinson now joins his legendary former teammates Jerome Kersey, Kevin Duckworth, and Drazen Petrovic in basketball heaven. There, they will play their games with Kobe Bryant, Len Bias, Wilt Chamberlain…
Rest in Peace Cliff Robinson