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January 8th, 2014 MATTHEW SINGER | Sports
 

Hotseat: Robin Lopez

The Blazers’ center talks comic books, The Goonies and his love of almost everything Disney.

news_blazers_4010THE CHUNK OF DUNK: Robin Lopez blows past the Houston Rockets’ Chandler Parsons at Moda Center on Dec. 12. “Those are two spheres that usually don’t interconnect,” Lopez says of his interests outside of basketball. “I try to keep them separate because it gives me a little sanctuary to go to.” - IMAGE: chrisryanphoto.com
Robin Lopez is, literally and figuratively, a giant nerd.

That’s normally an ill-advised thing to say about someone built like a Greek colossus, but the Blazers’ 7-foot, 255-pound center wouldn’t take offense.

How else to describe a guy who spends his NBA money on comic books, could dominate a Disney-themed pub quiz, customizes his game shoes with elaborate Sharpie illustrations, regularly tweets about The Goonies and ’90s sitcoms, and loves watching golden-age Hollywood musicals? He also rocks a cinnamon-colored Afro that’s earned him the proud nickname of “Sideshow Rob.”

He may be the most Portlandian Blazer since Bill Walton. And with his rebounding, defensive presence and hustle contributing to the Blazers’ best start in a decade, Lopez is poised to become the team’s biggest cult hero since Channing Frye.

WW talked with Lopez to drill down further into his geekery. 


WW: Are you aware how well you fit the Portland archetype?

Robin Lopez: I played with Channing Frye in Phoenix, and he told me I’d fit right in. I love it. It fits like a glove.


What were you like as a kid?

I was pretty creative. Brook [Lopez, his twin brother who plays for the Brooklyn Nets] and I were pretty imaginative. We always had pretty wide interests.


Did basketball interest you first or did everything come at once?

It was definitely a concurrent development. I was kind of born into basketball, because my older brothers played. And then, likewise, I was also born into the art world. My aunt’s an architect, and my grandma, as a Christmas gift, she would always give us an art box.

My grandma in Fresno, when we lived in L.A., she had a huge library—I think it was the biggest library of children’s books in the Central Valley. There was this huge collection for us, and every time we went there it was just a treasure trove.


Where did the Disney obsession start?

I grew up during the renaissance, so there were great animated films to pick from. There was something appealing about the movies. They’re so universal.

 

What’s your favorite ride at Disneyland?

Pirates of the Caribbean, by far. It’s the best re-creation of reality they’ve done so far. There’s a storyline, and it kind of gets lost. They did such a great job of putting subtle themes in the ride. Everything’s very deliberate. But it is also very natural, very chaotic in its own sense. There’s something perfect about that, and it’s not been topped.


Since you’ve become famous, have you been to the secret Disneyland club that serves alcohol?

Club 33? It’s cool. Brook and I became members. That’s one of the things we always wanted to do since we were little, because you always hear about it. Going up there for the first time, that felt like holy ground a little bit. It was surreal.


How many comics do you own? 

Not as many as Brook. He’s pretty much collecting everything DC Comics publishes right now. I have two or three titles I’ve collected and tried to complete those runs.


You’ve said since Brook signed such a huge contract with the Nets, he’s now just blowing it on comics.

With comic books, for the most part, it’s not a costly addiction. It’s not like Fabergé eggs.


What is the crown jewel in your personal collection?

I do have a complete run of Teen Titans from their first print to Secret Origins to now, even though I’m not a big fan of the Essential series. I’m kind of just collecting out of the completist sense.


Is there a gem out there that you’re hunting for?

Showcase No. 4, the first appearance of the Barry Allen Flash. Flash Comics No. 1, which is the first golden-age Flash comic. Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories No. 1—I have it, but it’s in very ratty condition. It’s probably only worth $200. A very fine copy would be like $80,000.


What’s the geekiest thing you’ve bought since being in the NBA that you’ve spent a lot of money on?

It wasn’t too expensive. Nike and Michael J. Fox partnered to put out the Air McFlys on eBay. I did get a pair of those for, like, $20,000.


You’re an illustrator yourself. Who are your favorite artists? 

To go from earliest to latest: There’s always, you know, Winsor McCay, Walt Kelly, Al Capp. Will Eisner, Edward Gorey, Marc Davis. For the more typical superhero artists, George Perez, Carl Barks and Don Rosa. Tim Burton. Theodore Geisel.  


On Twitter, you compared this team to the Goonies. What Goonie-ish qualities do you see in this squad?

The Goonies are a close-knit group. They believe in themselves, even though there are doubters throwing darts at them outside. I posted that catch phrase a couple times, “Goonies never say die.” That’s pretty in line with the mentality of our team.

I asked Damian [Lillard] if he had seen Goonies. He said no. I’m questioning how many people on this team have actually seen the movie.

 

You said you’re the Chunk of the team.

There aren’t too many clean parallels between people and their characters. I definitely do think Wes [Matthews] is Mouth. As far as Chunk goes, I think we’re both very ridiculous, maybe in different ways.


When the Blazers brought you in, did you have an idea of what your role was going to be?

Just looking at the roster, I knew I was out there to do the dirty work—get extra possessions, stuff like that.


What do you think this team needs to make a deep playoff run? 

We’re focusing on getting back to where we were defensively during that winning streak. There’s always room for improvement. 


Is this year’s team tough enough? That’s another knock.

Oh really? That’s a moronic knock. Without a doubt, I don’t think toughness or greediness is an issue.


In a recent game in Detroit, you wrestled Hooper, the Pistons’ mascot, to the ground.

I was protecting myself. That was self-defense.


Which is the NBA’s most annoying mascot?

The Toronto Raptor. I wish we could go back to Toronto, because he gets my goat. I have a few choice words for that guy.


Can you elaborate on that?

No. He knows.


Are you happy to get out of New Orleans before the arrival of Pierre the Pelican? He’s the most frightening thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

He does look like he’ll haunt your nightmares. I’m a pretty big fan of the name, if you just embrace the ridiculousness of it. As far as Pierre the Pelican goes, I don’t know what it is with the eye shadow. It’s not a becoming look for him. It’s almost Joker-ish.


Pro athletes often show a single-minded devotion to their sport. Do your broad interests ever alienate you from other athletes?

There were times during the draft where people were questioning myself and Brook’s dedication to basketball just because we had outside interests, which is pretty ridiculous when you think about it.


Prior to entering the draft, you suggested you were hesitant about going into the NBA. Have you found it hard fitting in with the league’s culture? 

Not at all. Your college mindset is always vastly different from who you end up being. My mindset will be different five years from now; it’ll be different a year from now.

I really had no idea what NBA culture was like. I didn’t really have an idea of what people were like. Just like anybody on the street, people are just regular dudes.


What are your top three favorite wizards?

Gandalf’s definitely on the list. Trying to pick my favorite Harry Potter wizard, I can easily go with Dumbledore. I always liked Professor Lupin. I’ll put him on the list. [A day after the interview, Lopez asked via his publicist to take Lupin off his list and replace him with Hermione Granger.]

I got to pick a Disney wizard. Can I pick Angela Lansbury in Bedknobs and Broomsticks? 


Angela Lansbury?

She’s not a particularly great wizard, but I just love that movie so much. Maybe it’s the combination of her and David Tomlinson’s character. Those are my three. 

 
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