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Cliff Robinson Went on Survivor & Stole the Show
Screenshot from YouTube

The second day of the 2021 Texas winter storm left a group of seven playing the waiting game.

It was 9 a.m. We haphazardly attempted our professional responsibilities. We needed a distraction.

So began an entire day of The Lord of the Rings trilogy — the extended editions.

The Return of the King wrapped up around 9 PM, commencing a full 12 hours in Middle Earth. It was a feat to be sure. I’ve had my fix for the next decade.

We were looking for a nightcap before calling it. Naturally, we landed on the 28th season of Survivor.

I lived under a rock the past 20 years and somehow had never seen an episode of the CBS phenomenon. I was immediately hooked. Jeff Probst is my hero.

The cast was introduced, and I noticed a familiar face.

Survivor Contestant Cliff Robinson

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The 18 contestants of Survivor: Cagayan were divided into three tribes: Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty.

On the Brawn tribe stood a behemoth of a man. It was former NBA player Cliff Robinson.

Robinson initially intended to keep his identity a secret. However, his tribemate Yung Woo Hwang recognized him, and the two formed a close bond.

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Robinson was liked around camp and performed well in challenges, which made him a threat to other competitors. His teammates Sarah Lacina and Tony Vlachos even tried to throw a challenge in order to vote out Cliff.

Unfortunately for them, the challenge involved shooting baskets and the Brains tribe was so horrendous that not even their poorest effort could help them lose. The Brains blew a 3-1 lead with Tim Donaghy officiating in their favor.

After four contestants were voted out, the reaming 14 were divided into two new tribes. The basketball player was dealt to the Solana tribe that consisted of two Beauties and five Brawns.

The Brawns seemed to have the numbers, but sensing Cliff’s threat as a physical player down the road, the Brawns flipped on Cliff and blindsided him by voting him out. He finished in 14th place.

It hurt to see Cliff go. It makes sense from a normal-sized human perspective. There was a challenge where one competitor had to hug a post while two opponents tried to drag them across a line about 15 feet away.

All 6-foot-10 and 225 pounds of Cliff made him nearly impossible to move. He followed Matt Nagy’s “Be You” philosophy — literally don’t do anything other than exist — and helped win his tribe coffee and pastries.

Cliff Robinson’s Basketball Career

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Clifford Robinson was born on December 16, 1966 in Buffalo, New York. He attended Riverside High School and earned a scholarship to the University of Connecticut.

The center was one of the first players to kickstart Jim Calhoun’s program. As a junior, he led the Huskies to the 1988 NIT Championship. In four seasons, he averaged 15.3 points and 6.1 rebounds. His number 00 was retired by his alma mater in 2007.

The UConn product was selected 36th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1989 NBA Draft, and enjoyed a nice career.

— NBA All-Star (1994)
— 2x NBA All-Defensive Second Team
— NBA Sixth Man of the Year (1993)
— Second-Team All-Big East (1989)
— Third-Team All-Big East (1988)

The Trail Blazers made the playoffs every year in Robinson’s eight seasons with the team, including the NBA Finals in 1990 and 1992. It was in Portland that he earned his nickname Uncle Cliffy. Robinson played 461 consecutive games for the franchise, a record that still stands today.

The second-round draft pick also played for the Phoenix Suns, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, and New Jersey Nets. He retired in 2007. In 18 seasons, he averaged 14.2 points and 4.6 rebounds. He’s 14th all-time in games played with 1,380.

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Cliff Robinson Death

Cliff Robinson unfortunately passed away in August 2020. His cause of death was lymphoma. He was 53.

His NBA teams, Probst, and several of his Survivor castmates expressed their condolences on social media. He is survived by his wife Heather Lufkins and son Isaiah Robinson.

Robinson was an NBA iron man, a fun guy, and a joy that helped spark my current Survivor obsession.

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Joe Grobeck About the author:
Joe is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and lives in Austin, Texas. He believes Ndaumkong Suh should've won the 2009 Heisman and is an avid basketball fan.
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