Growing Up: Robin Lopez

The Cavaliers have a notoriously young squad. But they’re older veteran leadership – guys with 10-plus years of service – is an interesting group as well, featuring a future Hall of Famer, an international hoops icon and the subject of today’s installment of Growing Up …

Just a couple weeks in a Cavaliers uniform has made it clear to teammates and fans that Robin Lopez – a.k.a. “RoLo” a.k.a. “Captain Hook” – is not your ordinary veteran big man. 

In an age when big men consistently stray beyond the arc – including his twin brother, Brook – Robin Lopez plays point-black center, banging around the basket and reviving the sky hoop as an offensive option. 

Now in his 15th season and his ninth different NBA team after going No. 15 overall out of Stanford back in 2008, the cerebral seven-footer has posted modest solid-but-not-spectacular numbers – averaging 8.7 points and 4.9 boards in 945 career contests. 

As the Wine & Gold’s road trip continues through California – where a young RoLo was born and raised – we sat down with the squad’s backup center to learn a little more about what that was like …  

I was born … in North Hollywood and I probably lived there until 3rd grade or so, when we moved to Fresno, California.

Besides Brook, I have … two brothers, Chris and Alex – both older. 

Growing up with them … was a dream for me. I wanted to be just like my older brothers. They both played ball. They were very well-rounded – they loved movies, comic books, drawing, art. I wanted to be just like them. 

I’ve always played … center – even next to Brook. He was the power forward. 

Brook and I also … ran cross-country in elementary school and we both played volleyball in high school.

Alex and Chris were a little older, so … they weren’t incredibly competitive with us. But Brook and I, we played one-on-one all the time, and those were blood-lust matches. 

The two of us broke … a lot of stuff. I still break stuff.  

My dad played … some basketball back when he was in Cuba. His brother played professional baseball. And my mom was a swimmer. 

As former athletes … they had an understanding of what you’re going through – morning workouts, two-a-days, things akin to that. 

And there was always an emphasis … on education. But my mother was a teacher, so it didn’t feel heavy-handed or anything like that. It just felt natural, the way it was supposed to be. 

I was really fortunate … when I was younger, in that I had a coach who taught my second-oldest brother, Chris, who helped teach me the fundamentals of basketball. And then when I was in high school, our coach, Will Hooker, was invaluable. 

As far as playing basketball for a living … I think I always had an idea in the back of my mind. I was very fortunate in that way. I had my older brothers, and I was able to look at what they did, and I always had that goal; I always had that ‘conclusion’ in the back of my mind that I was going to play professional basketball. 

Of course, I remember … my first dunk. My first, first dunk was some time in 8th grade. My first in-game dunk was freshman year of high school. 

That coach … Will Hooker, I remember when it happened – it was on a breakaway, and I didn’t think I celebrated it at all, I’ve never been one to celebrate much. But my team went nuts – and he had to tell our team to stop celebrating so much. We were playing a team that wasn’t as good as us. 

But it was fun … I do remember that.