By Yaron Weitzman
NBA FOX Sports Editor
Over the course of his 13-year career, Robin Lopez has forged a reputation as a renaissance man in the NBA. He loves everything about Disney. He hates mascots. And he’s a huge comic book nerd.
This latter interest served as the inspiration for his latest venture off the field. Over the past year, Lopez has worked with his twin brother Brook, their brother Chris and Japanese artist TATSUZ to develop their own basketball-themed manga called “Transition Game”. This week they will come out the first chapter of this project, which follows the story of a 15-year-old American basketball player forced to uproot himself when his mother, who serves in the Navy, is promoted to a new position on a small island of Okinawa in Japan.
FOX Sports spoke with Lopez last week about the project, his comic book collection, what it’s like to watch his brother make the final, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s wrestling choreography and more.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
FOX Sports: How did this project come about?
Robin Lopez: My brothers and I have always been huge fans of comics and huge fans of manga, and I think it was exciting for us to finally have the chance to combine the two loves. We’ve had great experiences in the NBA and traveled overseas, both in Europe and the Pacific, and I think this manga is a bit like that – a love letter, a beautiful picture of all of our experiences.
FOX: Has anyone approached you about this? Was this your idea? How did it happen?
RL: It’s an idea that just happened by pulling the breeze between the brothers. Many of them are inspired by traveling as children. Because our mother was a teacher, she moved from school to school, and we also went from school to school. We loved it, don’t get me wrong, but there wouldn’t be much continuity in a new school or location. And that was something that was hard to get used to.
FOX: What’s the pitch of the story?
RL: The American basketball prodigy is transferred from his home to a small Japanese island, where he must acclimatize to a different culture, a different way of life and a different way of playing.
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FOX: How involved were you in setting this all up?
RL: I am part of the creative aspect. I helped my brother write it. What excites me and what we’ve talked about, maybe depending on the success, is doing save features because we know there are a lot of NBA players who are interested in creating theirs. own manga, from their own comics.
FOX: Give me the worst idea Brook has ever had that you shut down because it was stupid.
RL: The worst idea Brook had was to make him Brook-centric. It will not arrive.
FOX: Growing up, did you read manga and comics?
RL: I read more American comics. I read a bit of manga. I watched more anime than I read manga.
FOX: What was your favorite comic?
RL: I always point to two comics. One would be Mark Waid’s run on “The Flash”. And then the other should probably be any Carl Barks “Uncle Scrooge” story.
FOX: Why those?
RL: It’s easier to say now than when I was a kid. Then I just liked them because they were great stories. I love Wally West. I love Uncle Scrooge. I think Wally West has a great development from a teenager in terms of who he becomes an adult. And it’s done for a period of about 200 issues. I think this is the best example of character development in modern DC or Marvel Comics.
FOX: Do you still collect the comics?
RL: Yes, we cling to everything we read. We have so many. We have always been a DC family in our home. All Flash comics, “Teen Titans”, “Young Justice”, “Green Lantern”. On the Marvel side, “Avengers”, “New Warriors”. And then I collect a lot of Disney comics, so I try to finish my run with the Walt Disney comics and stories: Uncle Scrooge, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck.
FOX: By changing the subject, you played with the Roe deer last year and are obviously close to Brook. What has marked you so far in these finals?
RL: It’s exciting to see so many new faces in the final. There are a lot of great stories. And it’s just interesting to see someone you know so close to the center of the discussion.
FOX: How do you proceed when, for example, Brook has to be taken out of the games because the Suns do they attack it face to face?
RL: There are definitely a lot of ribs going on. It would not be appropriate to print.
FOX: Give me your favorite Giannis story from last year.
RL: I think what I like about Giannis is coming back to wrestling. He’s so good. I don’t think anyone is aware of the playful side he shows on the court. He got so into directing and choreographing these fights. I think he has a future in there.
FOX Would he push you around if you made the wrong move or something?
RL: Yeah, he demanded stronger, tighter, bigger gestures and all.
FOX: Is it getting boring? Have you ever said, “Giannis, relax?
RL: Not at all. I respect the profession.
FOX: Spend time Russell westbrook this year with the Wizards, what struck you the most about him? Have you ever seen him go through receipts in the cafeteria or someone trying to take their parking space and being yelled at?
RL: I like to think that maybe I could take his parking space and not get yelled at. I love Russell. Russell is very involved with everything. He’s so smart in so many different areas, everything about the game, everything to do with basketball. He walked around the block. He knows how things should go. And he’s so supremely gifted. I mean, people talk about his physical gifts, but they’re not talking about his mental gifts – the way he can manipulate a game just by moving players around the field.
FOX: What was your reaction to Scott Brooks not being brought back?
RL: I am a bit sad. I understand it’s a business. I understand what’s going on, but I loved being coached by Scott. I think everyone did. He gave confidence to a lot of players, and I wish there was maybe a little more continuity. I know it was a truly unprecedented season. We had a lot of guys coming in and out of the roster. I would like him to have the chance to have a little more continuity with the team.
FOX: Have you spoken to him since?
RL: I just reached out and said, “Hey, I really appreciate it.”
FOX: Any Disney World trips planned for this summer?
RL: I briefly went to Disney for a few hours just to see the Avengers campus. That’s all so far.
FOX: After the bubble, you were like, “I’ll never go back to Disney”?
RL: No, no, not at all. I guess I’m still nervous with the pandemic and everything and the new strain that appears.
FOX: I’m taking my family to Disney this winter. Two children under 4 years old. Where to go ?
RL: I think they will love Magic Kingdom. I think Animal Kingdom is something they will enjoy as well. I think they would enjoy Star Wars Land, how immersive it is. I know my brothers’ kids, my friend’s kids love to build lightsabers, and I think it’s a really cool experience for them. The way their faces lit up in parts of Star Wars Land, seeing what it was and seeing that they were there in the Star Wars universe, that was something really beautiful.
Yaron Weitzman is an NBA Writer for FOX Sports and the author of Reaching the top: Philadelphia 76ers and the most daring process in professional sports history. Follow him on twitter @YaronWeitzman.
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