Trail Blazers center Robin Lopez, along with his twin brother Brook of the Brooklyn Nets, are on traveling through Russia as a part of an NBA tour to increase interest in basketball overseas. Here’s what Robin had to say after his first day in Russia (as told to Casey Holdahl) …
Hello from Moscow! Your globetrotting Trail Blazer and international raconteur Robin Lopez here. I’m traveling with a Lopez-rich junket across Russia with the NBA to promote basketball in the former Eastern Bloc. The NBA has been building and remodeling a lot of basketball courts out here in Moscow, Perm and other areas in Russia, so we’re out here just trying to facilitate the excitement that’s been growing around basketball internationally.
Starting out in Fresno on Tuesday, my older brother Chris and I flew to Los Angeles then to Moscow, where we met up with Brook. There was really nothing remarkable that happened on the way there. We left L.A. around 4 pm and ended up getting into Moscow around 3:30 pm. That’s almost 13 uneventful hours, which, considering some recent events, is a good thing.
We went straight from the airport to the hotel, which is right across from the Kremlin and Red Square. You can almost see St. Basil’s Cathedral, one of the most iconic European landmarks, from my hotel room. It’s just out of view, but it’s there.
We had the rest of the day off, so we took a quick stroll into Red Square, which was everything I was expecting and nothing I was expecting. It was interesting. The architecture is definitely an East meets West feel, a hodgepodge of cultures. There’s Nordic influences, some Italian, some Indian, some Turkish. It’s such a mix of cultures. For the most part, as an American, my view of Russia mostly shaped through spy movies and superhero comic books, along with a few history classes I’ve taken. So it’s nice to see the real Russia, not the vilified version you see in fiction. And despite some frosty relations between the United States and Russia, I haven’t noticed any animosity at all. People have been very friendly and welcoming right from the start. Nothing standoffish or anything of the sort.
Walking around Moscow, we get the typical responses from people that we get in the States. Everybody’s response to height is pretty universal. A lot of the girls are surely turning their heads because of my Harrison Ford-ish good looks, which again, is a typical response anywhere in the world. We’re really not so different.
And on the subject of my dashing good looks, you might have noticed, at least if you follow me on Instagram, that I’m wearing my travel hat. I’ve had a travel hat ever since I took a trip to Italy when I was playing at Stanford. This one isn’t the original hat, but I keep replacing it with reasonable facsimiles. It’s the Adventurer’s Hat. I start playing a character, of sorts, when I bring out that hat. I don’t want to infringe on any copyrights so I won’t name any names, but I think it’s pretty obvious which iconic character I’m channeling. On a totally unrelated note, has anyone see Short Round lately?
Today, we got to interact with a lot of fans during a little camp we put on at a tournament. There were four or five outdoor courts set up underneath an overpass. It was a very neat setting, almost like something out a video game or movie, like some kind of kung-fu basketball globetrotting movie. Something ridiculous like that. It was cool. We got to hang out with a bunch of locals, went through some drills with them. They were just so excited to play basketball with us, especially the woman throwing up the peace sign there.
As you can see, my friend and teammate Damian Lillard is here as well, at least in spirit. That guy is everywhere.
We’re going to be in Russia until Sunday. We leave from Perm tomorrow afternoon and we’ll be there just for the night and the next morning before flying out the next day.
I want to see as much as possible. The recreation of the Amber Room is in St. Petersburg. Things got all mixed up after World War II, so no one knows where the real, original Amber Room is. Who knows, maybe I’ll stumble upon it somewhere in Perm. After all, I’m wearing this hat.
As for the food, I’m eating very well. A diet rich in crepes and nuetella, cornerstones of any delicious breakfast the world over. Nic said their was a crepe bar over by the practice facility, so I’m hoping I can find other international culinary delights that I can try out with Nic when we both get back to Portland, maybe set up a little date.
We also had some Georgian food, which was fantastic. There was also this soda made from grass, or at least it originally was. Now it’s a distillation of the essence of what the original soda was. The flavor of the grass was fantastic, but to be honest, they also had a pear-flavored soda that was better. I might see if they can send a case of that back to Fresno. That would be nice.
That’s about it for today. Check back tomorrow for more tales of international intrigue. Do svidanya!