Deborah Ledford would sit in her living room, repeatedly pressing the “last channel” button on her remote control.
When this television conflict first began in 2008, she switched back and forth from Nets games to Suns games, quickly changing the channel during timeouts or free throws. Last year, with mobile devices having become hand-held high-definition televisions thanks to streaming, Ledford would put the Bucks on her TV and the Bulls on her cell phone, or vice versa.
On game nights this upcoming season, though, her remote control and cell phone will remain on the coffee table in the living room of her Central California home. Her seven-foot twin sons, Brook and Robin Lopez, will be playing on the same channel and the same team: the Milwaukee Bucks.
“I would always have to hope their games would be on different days or different times,” Ledford says. “When they were on at the same time, sometimes we simply missed what the other did. It will be much easier now.”
And much more enjoyable for a mother who, for 11 years, has watched her nearly identical sons square off against one another multiple times a season.
The twins playing alongside one another for the Bucks adds something of a final chapter to the family’s history in Milwaukee, the city in which their mother was born. In 1949, Ledford’s father, Bob, was invited to try out for a recent start-up league called the National Basketball Association. At the time, Ledford said, the NBA paid $300 a month, and Bob Ledford, with a baby on the way, needed a more secure income. He instead accepted a job as an engineer for Allen-Bradley, a factory automation equipment company, and from 1949 to 1951 played center for the Milwaukee Allen-Bradleys of the National Industrial Basketball League, which was comprised of teams sponsored by large companies and players employed by said companies.
“So, it’s kind of like a circle that has been completed with the twins now coming to play in Milwaukee,” Ledford says.
The twins’ height mostly comes from the Ledford family, said Deborah, who is 6-0 and whose father was 6-7. Brook and Robin’s eldest brother, Alexander, who is a teacher and also serves as the twins’ personal trainer, is 6-10. Their older brother Christopher, who Ledford said is writing and producing a basketball graphic novel, is 6-7.
Raising four growing boys presented certain challenges, one of which was feeding them. Ledford said that shortly after dinner was served and the dishes were loaded into the dishwasher each night, at least one of the boys would invariably ask, “What’s there to eat, Mom? I’m hungry!” She kept plenty of cereal and milk on hand for those post-dinner appetites.
“I would estimate three or four boxes of cereal a week,” Ledford said. “They ate well.”
While many of the twins’ similarities remain, such as their appearance and their affinity for all things Disney and Star Wars, as Brook and Robin grew older, the differences in their personality, preferences and playing style began to develop. Ledford would take the twins to the barber to get haircuts together until junior high school when Robin said he wasn’t going because he wanted long hair.
“I said fine because he saved me some money,” Ledford said with a laugh. “It’s his head and as a parent you always have to choose your battle.”
To this day, Robin’s unkempt curly locks and beard - as well as his ongoing feud with NBA mascots - are defining characteristics that make it easy to tell him apart from his short-haired, clean-shaven, mascot-friendly twin brother.
The twins’ difference in temperament became clear while playing one-on-one in the driveway. Ledford said if Robin beat Brook, no damage was done. If Brook beat Robin, basketballs were thrown, screens were torn, lights were shattered. (Robin’s penchant for breaking glass continued during his rookie season when he shattered a door after losing a game of 3-on-3, sending shards onto the court and echos of what sounded like the open to Stone Cold Steve Austin’s theme music reverberating through the Phoenix Suns practice facility).
The twins have since played against one another in 22 regular season games in the NBA, with Brook having gone 13-9 against Robin. And Ledford has been in attendance for all of them, wearing the jersey of the home team and the hat of the road team to equally support her sons. Knowing that one of her boys would lose each time, she was placed in something of a constant no-win situation.
“Whenever they played each other, I didn’t have fun because I knew that one’s success would be at the expense of the other,” Ledford said. “If one got a dunk on the other or one blocked the other’s shot, it was good for one and bad for the other.”
The days of playing against one another are now over, meaning they’ll win together and lose together. For the first time since they played for Stanford University, the Lopez twins will wear matching outfits when they put on the green and white of the Bucks (unlike when they were younger and Ledford dressed the twins in color-coded clothing so people could tell them apart -- blue for Brook and red for Robin). Robin, who signed a two-year deal with Milwaukee this summer, now joins a team that his older brother - one minute older, to be exact - helped lead to a 60-win season and the Eastern Conference Finals in his first season with the Bucks.
“Since Brook has been playing the center spot for his whole NBA career, and there aren’t that many seven-footers around, I had almost resigned myself to the fact that they would never be on the same team,” Ledford said. “And then for this to occur, it was the most wonderful thing. The people who are running the Bucks are just really astute people because when you have Brook and Robin play together, you have a synergy.”
Brook and Robin will now look to turn their sibling rivalry into sibling royalty as they attempt to become the second set of brothers to win an NBA championship, joining Pau and Marc Gasol. Unlike the Gasols, the Lopezs have an opportunity to win the title together, as do their teammates Giannis Antetokounmpo and his older brother Thanasis, who also signed with the Bucks this summer.
“I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch,” Ledford said. “But that would be awesome.”
As close as they are in bond and proximity, the Lopez twins will not be living together, although shortly after reaching an agreement with the Bucks, Robin did tweet a clip from “The Simpsons” of brothers fighting over the top bunk. Nor were they roomies when Brook played for the Brooklyn Nets and Robin for the New York Knicks during the 2015-2016 season. For that they blamed their cats, who couldn’t possibly live under the same roof because they didn’t get along. This time around, Ledford said that Robin simply prefers a downtown apartment while Brook enjoys his private house (no word on the cats’ real estate preferences).
“So, no, they won’t be living together,” Ledford said, “but I suspect they’ll be hanging out at Brook’s house quite a bit.”
In the past when the two played against one another, Ledford said, the road twin would often stay at the house of the home twin. The two would discuss everything but basketball and play board games deep into the night, just as they did as kids.
“To this day they have huge collections of board games that I’ve never ever heard of,” Ledford said. “And they know all the detailed rules.
When the board games are packed up, and the cameras are turned on, the brotherly love dissipates. When playing against one another, from opening tip to the final buzzer, there was a mutual silent treatment between the two. While doing interviews, they endearingly teased one another and exchanged verbal jabs, often sounding like wrestlers recording a promo for their upcoming match.
That hostile side of their relationship didn’t develop until the two were in the NBA, separated for the first time.
“They had always been on the same team, always on the same side,” Ledford said. “Barbs at each other was not a part of it.”
Now back on the same team and the same side, the barbs haven’t stopped just yet.
When Brook was asked By HoopsHype what he thought of the Bucks’ offseason, he said, “I thought we made all the right moves...pretty much. Except for signing Robin.” After the Bucks’ media day, Robin retweeted photos of himself and teammate Kyle Korver saying, “Two best looking guys on the squad no question.”
That nemesis behavior, though, is something of a facade. A crowd-pleasing act by a pair of witty, seven-foot performers. Off the court and away from the spotlight, Ledford says, the twins are no less a tandem than the kids who grew up creating stories together, with Brook doing the writing and Robin the sketches, and planning their next trip to Disney Land, charting their itinerary for each ride following their 8 a.m. arrival at the theme park.
“In reality,” Ledford says, “they are always really supportive of each other.”
Their supportive mother will will be traveling to Milwaukee once a month this season to visit her sons and attend home games. When not in attendance, she’ll be watching from afar, just as she always has. Only this time, her sons will be playing on the same court, in the same city, and on the same channel.