KGPE – Brook and twin brother Robin Lopez moved to Fresno in third grade, later starred at San Joaquin Memorial High School, and have since combined to play 26 years in the NBA.
And last Tuesday, Brook added an NBA title to his resume, which meant an exciting week for their mom Deborah.
She was in the locker room for the champagne celebration – a smiling Deborah says she didn’t spray any champagne, but some did get on her shoes – and spent some time reflecting on Brook’s journey to get to this point.
“Brook said to me in second grade, (mom) ‘before I play in the NBA, I’m gonna play at Stanford,'” recalled Deborah Sunday,
Deborah, along with her oldest son Alexander, his wife and their two daughters, attended Game 3, Game 4, and Game 6 of the NBA Finals in Milwaukee.
“Oh, there’s times when I get excited, and I’m shouting and yelling, and cheering,” said Deborah, about watching the games in person. “And then there’s other times when I get silent. Actually, I get silent when things are not going our way.”
Fortunately, there was more cheering than silence this time around for the former teacher at Clovis West, because the Bucks won four straight games to come back from a 2-0 deficit against the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals, and clinch the Bucks first NBA title in 50 years.
“It was just exhilarating. It was amazing, you know, the confetti and streamers were falling everywhere,” said Ledford, about the moments after the final buzzer in Game 6 at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.
Making it even better was she and the other family members got to go down on the court and into the locker room afterwards, to celebrate with Brook.
And two days later, she also got to ride in one of the buses taking players and their families around the city, during the team’s championship parade.
“You here about ticker-tape parades, and you never think you’re ever gonna be in one, and there we were,” said Ledford. “The Milwaukee fans are really outstanding.”
Deborah, a former high-level swimmer in her younger days growing up in the Central Valley, says she doesn’t talk much basketball with Brook.
“My role as a mom is to support him,” says Ledford. “And when I’m out there in Milwaukee, cook his favorite food, which is spaghetti.”
But spend a few minutes with Deborah, and it’s clear she certainly knows her basketball, and knows this championship means a lot to her 33-year-old son, in part because of some of the struggles he’s dealt with so far in his 13-year NBA career. Brook has always been a solid NBA big man and was a 2013 NBA All-Star, but never got past the second round of the playoffs in his first nine NBA seasons with the Nets. He was then traded to the Lakers in the summer of 2017, but Ledford says, Los Angeles only really wanted him for his expiring contract.
“They didn’t care about him,” says Ledford. “Luke Walton (Lakers head coach at the time) said after the first game, after Brook had 21 points or something, ‘don’t shoot so much.'”
The following offseason, Lopez signed a one-year deal with the Bucks, and after putting up solid numbers playing alongside emerging superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, in helping the Bucks to the best regular-season record in the NBA in 2018-2019, Lopez signed a 4-year deal with Milwaukee.
Two years later, that move has paid off for Brook and the Bucks, to the tune of another NBA title for Milwaukee.
“He’s gone through difficult times, and to see it all finally payoff,” says Deborah, who was actually born in Milwaukee, where her father Bob worked for the Allen-Bradley company and played for the company’s team in the National Industrial Basketball League. “And it was a gamble, going to Milwaukee (for Brook), but he went there because he thought his chances of winning might be greater, teaming up with Giannis there.”