Trailing 3-1 to the Los Angeles Lakers and now playing without their heart and soul, Damian Lillard, who left the bubble to receive treatment on his injured knee, the Trail Blazers may not be long for Orlando. But tonight, the Blazers are playing for Cliff.
Portland took the court Saturday night for Game 5 of their Western Conference first-round series against the Lakers just hours after news broke of Clifford Robinson’s death at age 53. Robinson, who ranks 50th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list (19,591 points) as well as 55th in career three-pointers (1,253), spent the first eight years of his career as a Trail Blazer, appearing in the 1990 and 1992 NBA Finals while also securing an invite to the 1994 All-Star Game in Minneapolis.
A Buffalo, New York native who played his college ball at the University of Connecticut, the 6’10” Robinson was arguably best known for his signature headband, an accessory he wore nearly every game of his career. In a clever tribute to Robinson, the Blazers’ entire team arrived Saturday sporting black headbands in honor of the former Sixth Man of the Year and continued to wear them throughout the game.
Both teams held a moment of silence for Robinson as well as former University of Arizona head coach Lute Olson and actor Chadwick Boseman, all of whom died this week. As a salute to Boseman, who passed away Friday following a four-year battle with colon cancer (an illness he largely kept under wraps, at least publicly), LeBron James was seen giving the Wakanda sign, a nod to Boseman’s most iconic film role as the title character in Black Panther.
Robinson, who also suited up for Phoenix (four seasons), Detroit (two seasons), Golden State (two seasons) and New Jersey (three seasons) over the course of his 18-year NBA tenure, logged 42,561 minutes—23rd most all-time—over 1,380 career games, good for 13th-most in league history. No cause of death was given, though Robinson’s former UConn coach Jim Calhoun revealed he had been in a coma for a week and had also experienced a stroke in 2018.