Former University of Louisville and NBA center Clifford Rozier died Friday in his hometown of Bradenton, Florida, according to a report from the Courier-Journal. He was 45.
The news was confirmed by Rozier’s younger brother, Kobie Rozier, who spoke to both the Courier-Journal and TMZ and said that Clifford passed away on Friday morning after suffering a heart attack. According to Kobie, his older brother went into cardiac arrest on Wednesday and was placed on life support shortly thereafter.
As noted on his Basketball-Reference player page, the 6-foot-11, 245-pound Clifford Rozier was a high school standout at Southeast High School in Bradenton, and went on to play for legendary coaches Dean Smith at the University of North Carolina and Denny Crum at the University of Louisville, where he transferred after one season with the Tar Heels. He averaged over 18 points and 11 rebounds per game in his junior season with the Cardinals, then became the 16th pick in the 1994 NBA Draft, going to the Golden State Warriors.
In four NBA seasons with the Warriors, Toronto Raptors, and Minnesota Timberwolves, Rozier played in 173 games, averaging 4.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game while mostly coming off the bench. After his NBA career ended, however, Rozier struggled with drug abuse, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, and was “essentially broke” at the time the Sarasota Herald-Tribune caught up with him in 2010 and published an article on the challenges he faced when his pro basketball career was over.
According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Clifford Rozier first started “hearing voices” in his head when he was in his early 20s, and while he was able to block out the distractions at that time by playing basketball, the voices had become so distracting in his mid-20s that he “stopped loving the game.” By 2002, Rozier was 30-years-old and said to be hooked on drugs, homeless, and still bothered by the voices in his head, the report added.
“It was not hard to spot Rozier on the street. He was a 6-foot-11 man in a basketball jersey who would walk miles a day in search of drugs,” the Herald-Tribune wrote.
Separately, WDRB’s Rick Bozich recalled that Rozier also had his share of issues with NBA coaches, which he believes might have contributed to the fact that he played just four seasons in the league. According to Bozich, Rozier disappointed an unnamed Golden State Warriors assistant coach at the end of his rookie season, as he chose not to attend the team’s mandatory exit interview because he was “headed back to the beach in Florida.”
“You know where this story was headed. Rookies don’t do that. Rozier was racing his way out of the league,” Bozich added.
At the time of the Herald-Tribune report, Clifford Rozier was 37-years-old, supposedly on “heavy medication” for his schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and recovering from a crack cocaine addiction. According to Kobie Rozier, Clifford was still clean at the time of his death, though he “didn’t do much” and mostly kept to himself. Former Louisville running back Anthony Shelman, who was roommates with Rozier when they were in college, added that he spoke to Clifford last year and that he appeared “content where his life was.”