Nothing was especially exciting about Team USA’s win over Canada in Sydney Sunday night, but the exhibition game did offer one revelation: Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez is deeply, inexplicably beloved in Australia.
The center has suffered a gradual de-emphasis in the NBA, a casualty of the league’s offensive explosion. So it obviously follows that in the Southern Hemisphere, he is heralded as something of a god:
In the game’s final minutes, the crowd began to cheer raucously at Lopez’s every appearance on the Jumbotron. The chants, which included “M-V-P!”, were so persuasive that not even curmudgeonly head coach Gregg Popovich could withstand them, and he decided to put Lopez back in the game for the last minute.
Why the Lopez love? Nobody knew, not even the big man himself. It certainly wasn’t a reward for a rousing performance: In six minutes, Lopez shot 1-for-2 for two points, two rebounds and an assist, posting a plus-minus of -12.
Popovich was equally confused. “What the hell was that all about? I don’t understand,” he said in his press conference. “We screwed with it for a while, and we were trying to keep our focus because we don’t want to make anything silly, but it got so ridiculous that we succumbed to the crowd.”
“I guess it’s a big responsibility. I hope I’m up for the challenge,” Lopez said, when asked postgame how it felt to be the new Prime Minister of Australia. “It seems the people have spoken and—is there a democratic process here?—yeah, so, it’s taken care of then.” (Hey, it beats this guy.)
Sydneysiders, if “7-foot Bucks center out of Stanford” is your type, I have some very good news.