Survivor has a history of having formerly famous people from other areas of life appear as contestants on the show. Facts of Life star Lisa Whelchel made it all the way to the finals of Survivor: Philippines. But most of the familiar faces have come from the sports world, including Super Bowl winning coach Jimmy Johnson (Nicaragua), Dallas Cowboys quarterback Gary Hogeboom (Guatemala) and National League MVP Jeff Kent (Philippines). Add another name to that list when Survivor: Cagayan debuts on Feb. 26 as former NBA All-Star Cliff Robinson takes part as a member of the Brawn tribe.
However, it turns out host Jeff Probst used to not be such a fan of the man known as Uncle Cliffy. “I grew up in Seattle so there was a big rivalry between the Super Sonics and the Trail Blazers then, and I only knew him as an enemy” explains Probst. “So sitting down with him and seeing what a jovial guy he was, was fun.”
Probst talked more here about the competitive intensity Robinson will bring to the show, but he also thinks that his charm could go a long way. “I think Cliff coming in, he’s thinking, I’m a pretty likable guy, which he is,” says Probst. “And I’m a big guy. So If I cannot try to hide but just say, ‘Hey, I’m a big fella. I’m here to help,’ maybe I can make some friends. And he would always laugh in a middle of a sentence and then he’d say, ‘And then I laughed long enough and that competitive juice come out and then watch out!’”
Probst also dropped a clue about Robinson’s height coming into play early in the game: “It’s pretty interesting to look at a tribe where the average height is probably 5-7 and then here’s Cliff Robinson at 6-foot-10. What’s interesting is in the very first challenge, Cliff’s height comes into play. In our challenge meetings we’ve always talked about how a really tall person could just do this on their own and that kind of comes into play in the first challenge, where for the average person you’re going to have to climb on the backs of three people and climb a ladder, get on top of a building, grab a rope. But Cliff, he just lifts his arm up and there it is.”
It remains to be seen how long Robinson will be a towering presence on Survivor, but we’ll get our first — and hopefully not last — peek at the basketball player turned reality star this Wednesday night. And for season-long Survivor scoop, you can follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.