It’s been urban legend ever since the Inside the NBA crew joked about it a few years back, but the veil has finally been lifted on just what in the hell a “Cliff Robinson shower” even means.
Above is a 42-second snippet from Charles Barkley’s appearance in the premiere of Bill Simmons’ new HBO show, Any Given Sunday. Except, this section didn’t make the actual broadcast — they had to make way for Ben Affleck’s quasi-understandable DeflateGate rant.
Barkley, if you remember, used his appearance to explain why LeBron was not a top-3 player of all time and wasn’t even top 5. But that was just the section of his interview with Simmons that aired. The real juicy stuff came in the 13-minute “Speed Round” that you can only see on HBO Go as an extra video. It’s amazing, but perhaps mostly so we can learn the provenance of a “Cliff Robinson shower.”
Simmons has been wanting to the know the answer for a while, and even wrote about it in a 2012 mailbag for the now-shuddered Grantland (this was right around the time Barkley first uttered the phrase on Inside the NBA, sending Kenny and Shaq into hysterics at the in-joke that was never explained):
The John Bender Award for “Best Unfinished Story That’s Probably Even Better If You Don’t Know How It Finishes”
The funniest moment of the playoffs: when Barkley joked about an injured Caron Butler getting dressed so quickly during a Memphis-Clippers game that he took a “Cliff Robinson Shower,” then Kenny and Shaq laughing knowingly, like they knew exactly what he meant … you know, like Cliff Robinson’s showers were infamous within NBA circles. Did all three play with Cliff before? Were Cliff’s showers so legendary within NBA circles that it didn’t matter if you played with him or not? Did he shower and get dressed without drying off? Did Cliff have terrible B.O. — in other words, he didn’t shower, and that was the joke? And which Cliff Robinson were they discussing here? Was it 1980s Cliff Robinson (Cliff 1.0) or 1990s Cliff Robinson (Cliff 2.0)?
Because my life revolves around wasting time to figuring out ultimately meaningless answers, I scurried over to basketball-reference.com to see if Cliff 1.0 and/or Cliff 2.0 had been a teammate of Chuck, Kenny and/or Shaq. Only Chuck played with Cliff 1.0 (in Philly from 1985 to 1989), so that’s probably who he meant … but if that’s the case, then why did Shaq laugh so knowingly, when Cliff 1.0 retired in 1992, the year before Shaq entered the league? I thought about calling TNT and asking Barkley directly, then I realized something. It’s more fun NOT knowing. The Cliff Robinson shower can be whatever you want it to be. So here’s how I’m choosing to interpret it: Cliff 1.0 never showered and stunk like holy hell, to the point that name-dropping him 20 years after he retired would still get a laugh.
Well, now — thanks to Simmons himself — we finally have the answer.