Early today, it was confirmed that Cliff Robinson, known as Uncle Cliffy and for being a star for the Portland Trail Blazers, died at the age of 53. While his athletic achievements are well-known, his television run on Survivor: Cagayan proved to be rather entertaining in its own right. He served as one of the first great rivals to Survivor legend Tony Vlachos, who felt as though he needed to eliminate him in order to establish further control of some of his allies. Cliff was larger-than-life and charismatic, and that made him a threat to go far into the game. He was voted out before the merge, which remains a shame since he could’ve done so much damage after the fact.
We spoke to Cliff after his time on the show, and it was fascinating to hear him speak with such clarity about how he wanted to approach being out there, knowing that he was a big-name athlete who would probably be recognized:
The game is constantly evolving and changing. You have the big game, and then you have the small game, and then you have the smaller game. Going in I wanted to help my tribe win challenges, put people at ease when it comes to my height and being a professional athlete. I was able to establish those two things, but I wasn’t able to play that last card I wanted to play, which is ‘you want to take me to the end, because who would want to vote for me?’
There are tributes aplenty already out there for Cliff, but we’ll remember him for being an entertaining part of that season and overall, a gregarious guy who didn’t just want to be defined by his playing career in the NBA. He had a thrill for adventure; if he didn’t, he would have never opted to be a part of a season of Survivor in the first place.
Our thoughts go out to everyone who loved and cared about Cliff during this difficult time. (Photo: CBS.)