THE OBSESSION STARTED a long time ago, in a state far, far away, when they were just the size of Ewoks and not the Wookiee-sized big men they are today.
Brook and Robin Lopez grew up with a love of Star Wars. They were fascinated by the struggle between good and evil, the glow of lightsabers and a twisting storyline with unique characters (including twins!).
“There is a mythic quality of those movies that speaks to so many different people,” Robin says. “Across generations, genders, race.”
The Lopez brothers — comic-book aficionados and self-proclaimed sci-fi geeks — are, without a doubt, two of the biggest and proudest nerds in the NBA.
In July, Brook and Robin circled Dec. 5 on the calendar. The date was important, but there were obstacles in their way. They didn’t know where they would be — the NBA schedule had yet to be released. All they knew was that they’d be together.
For the first time since their days at Stanford, the two were playing for the same team, the Milwaukee Bucks. And they’ll tell you: Living in the same city has its perks.
“I’m sure our mom just loves this,” Brook says. “That we can get in more situations like this now that we’re together. This is probably the one downside she didn’t foresee.”
This “situation” was a fixation since the NBA schedule was released in August. The twins hounded their people to secure transportation and VIP access to the park. Never mind that the city of departure couldn’t be determined until a few days before (the brothers didn’t know if there would be practice that morning). The important part was that a plane would be ready the moment they were free of their day jobs.
Sixteen hours earlier, on Dec. 4, Brook and Robin were in Detroit, locking arms with Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin and helping the Bucks to their 13th win in a row. And 31 hours later, on Dec. 6, they’ll be taking on the LA Clippers in Milwaukee.
But right now, at 12:25 p.m. CT on Dec. 5, the identical twins are standing on the tarmac at Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, waiting to board a Bombardier Challenger 604. They have no luggage, and there is a 10:45 p.m. hard deadline to be back on the plane to ensure their participation in the Bucks’ morning shootaround. But they have a mission: make the light-speed jump to Orlando to ride Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance on opening day, Walt Disney World Resort’s newest attraction at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
“Out of season, we must have done something ridiculous like this at some point,” Brook says. “I know we’ve gone to Tokyo Disneyland for a day and a half over the summer. We’ll do stuff like that. But 14 hours for something this quick?”
He turns to Robin. “Can you think of anything?”
“I’m not often ridiculous,” Robin deadpans.
Is renting a private jet for a few hours to join the Resistance preposterous?
“No,” Robin says. “This feels perfectly natural.”
THE BROTHERS DUCK their heads as they step into the 10-seater jet, pass the bar and see a table in the far corner between two leather benches. Laid out is a Star Wars Monopoly game, two Jawa Pop! PEZ dispensers, two Star Wars: The Black Series collector mystery boxes, an UNO deck and two packs of Star Wars trading cards.
They study the Monopoly board of Star Wars universe properties. By Robin’s count, they own four other versions of Star Wars Monopoly.
“I would want to own property in Bespin,” Brook says as he inspects Cloud City, Lando Calrissian’s home in “The Empire Strikes Back.”
Robin tears into the Star Wars card packs and rates each card based on the film its scene is from. The twins are fervent fans of the original Star Wars trilogy, and there don’t seem to be many cards from Episodes IV-VI.
“Bad movie, bad movie, bad movie, bad movie,” Robin says, placing one card down after the other. “I sense a disturbing trend.”
The lone flight attendant politely interrupts and points to the emergency exit.
“Don’t worry,” she says, assuring the brothers. “This looks larger than it is.”
“I’m sure in an emergency it will be larger than it needs to be,” Robin replies before ripping into one of the mystery boxes.
Without warning, the jet picks up speed and takes off. Brook grabs the Star Wars cards and other loose items from sliding off the table. “We forgot about the takeoff thing,” Robin cracks.
He pulls a First Order Elite Snowtrooper out of the mystery box. The “Rise of Skywalker” action figure reminds Robin of another character, and the younger Lopez brother pulls up a photo of Dark Helmet from “Spaceballs” on his phone to show Brook.
The brothers, 31 years old and born one minute apart, giggle at the comparison.
“Instead of bringing cheer, he’s bringing tyranny,” Robin says of his Snowtrooper. “God bless him, every one.”
When the Lopez brothers are asked about each other, there is an illusion of major sibling beef that they revel in. In interviews, they deliver eyebrow-raising barbs. Their act is so polished that it’s hard to tell if they truly can’t stand each other.
“I don’t know if it’ll end,” Brook says. “I just know [Mike Budenholzer] was like, ‘Guys, you’ve got to take it easy on each other just a little bit.’ Like, he took us in and had a meeting with us.”
“He was like, ‘Take it easy, you guys. I don’t want you going too hard on each other.'”
Robin interrupts to remind Brook that he can’t move his Chewbacca piece in Monopoly, which is stuck in Star Wars jail.
“You’ll have to pay your way out,” Robin says sternly.
“Geez,” Brook says. “We’re just having good conversation.”
When Brook was playing for the Brooklyn Nets during the 2015-16 season and Robin was with the New York Knicks, the two said they couldn’t live together because of their cats. Robin’s cat, Prince Edward Zephyr, and Brook’s cat, Poupin, despise each other.
“The cats wouldn’t permit [it],” Robin says. “Pretty legitimate.”
With the twins now on the same team, Robin lives downtown, and Brook has a house in suburban Milwaukee.
“I don’t know who started it, honestly,” Brook says of the back-and-forth jabs. “I hate to go back to cats and dogs, but it’s kind of like that. Like, who knows how that [rivalry] got started? Who threw that first barb? Who knows.”
Robin says with a straight face: “Not me.”
When asked to define their relationship, Robin throws down the gauntlet: “R2-D2 and C-3PO. And I’m R2-D2. … Or [it’s like] R2-D2 and BB-8. And I’m R2-D2. You’re BB-8.”
Brook shakes his head, stands from his leather chair and waves his hands in fake disgust. “This interview is over! You son of a … I’ll take C-3PO. The biggest dork of all time. I’m not going to take the BB-8 one.”
“I mean, C-3PO, this guy,” Brook says. “I love you, C-3PO. I love the original trilogy. But when R2-D2 runs away in the first Star Wars, instead of stopping him or going to tell Luke and Uncle Owen, he hides. It’s so good. He hides! He has to wait for Luke to come and tell him R2-D2 ran away. What a dork!”
Robin is laughing.
“He’s, like, literally and figuratively yellow,” Robin says of C-3PO.
“People will talk about character arcs, but you look at the character arc of C-3PO from ‘Star Wars’ to ‘Return of the Jedi,’ and it’s a complete 180 … he’s not so much of a coward and a fussbudget.”
The jet touches down at sunny Kissimmee Gateway Airport shortly after 4 p.m. ET.
“I’m not losing my mind!” Brook excitedly blurts as he disembarks.
IF THE BROTHERS maneuver around Disney World like it’s home, that’s perhaps because Brook owns a house on the Disney World property that took years to build.
Brook and Robin go to the Disney parks stateside and overseas — from Paris to Tokyo — whenever they can. This ardor for all things Disney (Note: Disney is the parent company for both ESPN and Lucasfilm) was evident when the Nets did background research on Brook before taking him 10th overall in 2008. Shortly after the draft, the twins were seen buying stuffed animals at Adventureland in Walt Disney World Resort.
This year, they were spotted at Walt Disney World Resort during All-Star weekend in February and at Disneyland Resort at the end of May, when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened. They handed out candy on Halloween at NBA Experience, located at Disney Springs.
The two say they haven’t been this excited about a new Disney attraction since they were first-graders riding Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland Resort for the first time nearly 25 years ago.
Back in Orlando, Brook and Robin are getting the VIP treatment, as their group is taken through several back doors and corridors to Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Soon, the brothers walk into the first room of the attraction, which resembles a rebel hideout.
The 7-footers eventually walk onto a gigantic replica of a Star Destroyer hanger and immediately feel tiny. They ask a friend to take a picture of them with a garrison of animatronic Stormtroopers. Occasionally, a few of the Stormtroopers’ heads move as if they are surveying the visitors.
“When I walked by, I wasn’t sure, but it looked like one of the Stormtroopers’ head followed me, so I walked back the other way, and it went back with me,” Brook says. “That has to be just the biggest coincidence of all time, but I did it again, and it followed me. That is amazing attention to detail.”
Cast members are in character, barking instructions as First Order officers. The twins, in awe and dawdling, are instructed to keep it moving as a second door opens. They walk through a couple of corridors of the Star Destroyer and line up to board.
A First Order officer sizes up the Chewbacca-sized brothers and wonders aloud whether the tallest rebels she has seen all day will be able to fit with two others in the same row.
“We’ll fit,” Brook says. He has heard this many times before at amusement parks.
Brook whispers something to Robin, who responds: “Never tell me the odds.”
Later, two cars, each with two rows and helmed by a droid, arrive, and Brook and Robin get into the front row of the front car. A rebel lieutenant can be heard giving the droid directions on where to go to get to an escape pod inside the Star Destroyer.
After the attraction comes to an end, Brook, who had his camera out to take pictures, snaps a few more on the way out. The twins get off the ride and, as VIPs, are permitted to ride again. This time, they get in the rear car for a different perspective.
“Rock and roll!” Brook says.
When they’re finished with their second ride, Brook is last to get off behind Robin, and he notices that his brother left something in the front pouch.
“Hey, Robin! Don’t leave your Snowtrooper!” Brook says, grabbing the action figure Robin got from his mystery box on the plane. “You got his gun?”
WHEN MILLENNIUM FALCON: Smuggler’s Run opened at Disneyland Resort on May 31, no one should have been surprised to see the twins roaming the attraction. Brook, though, wished he had been elsewhere.
“It was unfortunate because that was a couple of days after we lost to Toronto,” the Bucks starting center said of the post-playoffs park visit. “So it was the smallest of silver linings.”
When the brothers take their seats this night on the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, they look like they’ve already done it dozens of times. As the Falcon’s hyperdrive malfunctions, dropping it into an asteroid field, Brook turns to Robin and yells.
“THEY TOLD ME THEY FIXED IT!” Brook shouts, quoting Han Solo. “I TRUSTED THEM!”
Soon after, the 7-footers are strolling past Droid Depot, and park guests can’t help but notice the pair. One kid asks who they play for.
“I think Detroit,” his dad replies, noticing Brook in a Miguel Cabrera Detroit Tigers jersey.
As the twins approach the entrance of Oga’s Cantina, a galactic rest stop for crew members and guests, a father and daughter recognize the brothers. The girl asks her father which one is better.
“The short-haired one,” he says, indicating Brook.
Another woman later in the night walks up behind Robin, who is talking to friends, and measures her height against his.
In Oga’s Cantina, a server recognizes the brothers and approaches the booth to ask what they want. It’s Phil Voyles, a classmate of theirs from San Joaquin Memorial High School. Brook goes on to tell everyone how he and Voyles were in several high school plays together, including “West Side Story” and “Footloose.”
The twins order some nonalcoholic drinks — Robin has the “Carbon Freeze,” and Brook asks for the “Jabba Juice” and the “Blue Bantha” — and after a brief reenactment of Han Solo shooting Greedo in the Cantina scene in “Star Wars,” they notice that it’s getting late. After all, Brook and Robin are set to play the Clippers in 24 hours.
“We should head back to Milwaukee,” Brook says. “Alert my Star Destroyer!”
It’s now 8:30 p.m. ET. The brothers have just over two hours before their deadline.
After grabbing a few slices of pizza, the twins start walking back toward Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, where Rey and X-wing fighter pilots ask if they want to meet Chewbacca.
Of course, the twins say yes. They are big Chewbacca fans, even presenting a Disneyland Chewbacca with a medal in 2016 because they were upset the Wookiee never received one from Princess Leia at the end of “A New Hope.” Brook once tried to convince reporters that he should play Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies, though he admits that if only one brother could play the character, it should be Robin.
“With all his hair, that’s really good for the part of a Wookiee,” he says.
They both grin as Chewbacca comes over. When all three pose for a picture, a circle of onlookers forms to capture the moment. Another friend comes by to see them: Walt Disney World Resort’s new president, Josh D’Amaro.
Soon after, the twins hear that Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, which closed earlier in the day, has reopened, and they aren’t going to waste the extra opportunity to ride.
At 9:30, their agent, Darren Matsubara, texts to remind them not to miss the plane. If they miss it, Matsubara says, there are no pilots who can be hired later in the night.
Brook and Robin are hardly sweating it, and as the clock approaches 10 p.m., they’re back on the ride.
“I really feel like I’m an integral part of the Resistance at this point, I’m not going to lie to you,” Robin says.
WITH FIVE MINUTES to spare, the Lopez brothers are on the tarmac and in front of their ride home.
The two bring aboard all sorts of new Star Wars toys and souvenirs. Wearing a backpack that looks like Yoda riding on his back, Robin has a blue lightsaber in his right hand, a droid in the other, a flickering blue Millennium Falcon hanging around his neck and a hat with Yoda ears. Brook has a red lightsaber, a droid and a bag with Disney Christmas decorations in his hands.
The door closes at 10:42 p.m., and the plane is back in the air less than 10 minutes later. The twins, surrounded by their souvenirs, pose for a video by pretending to be asleep.
Except Robin, his Mariners cap pulled low, eyes covered and tightly clutching a Yoda doll, has drifted off to actual slumber.
The Challenger 604 touches down at 12:26 a.m. CT in Milwaukee, and a black Suburban is waiting on the tarmac.
The brothers don’t have any more one-day trips scheduled for at least six months. If their true mission goes as planned, they’ll be busy until mid-June.
“That is correct,” Brook says. “We are booked until then.”