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Milwaukee Bucks Have 2 Sets Of Brothers On Their Roster This Season

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The Milwaukee Bucks have one of the best records in pro basketball this year. But perhaps even more notable is their unusual roster. For just the second time in NBA history, two pairs of brothers are playing on the same team. The Bucks brothers are a study in sibling relationships - one apparently close, the other maybe not so much. Chuck Quirmbach of member station WUWM in Milwaukee reports.

CHUCK QUIRMBACH, BYLINE: Last year, the Bucks made it to the NBA semifinals largely behind the play of their Greek international superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. He was the NBA's MVP and, in his seventh season in Milwaukee, is still introduced before home games as the Greek Freak.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Number 34, the Greek Freak.

QUIRMBACH: The 25-year-old Antetokounmpo now has his older brother Thanasis on the team. From the get-go, Giannis has spoken up for his less well-known sibling. Sitting next to him on media day, he touted Thanasis as a hard worker.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: Hey, this guy right here, trust him. Know that if you tell him to run through a wall, he's going to run through a wall. And he's going to get up and say, which other wall you want me to run through?

QUIRMBACH: In the highly competitive NBA, Thanasis has only played in a few games. That's led to speculation that Thanasis is only on the box to encourage his superstar brother not to leave the team when his contract expires next year. Even if true, fans like Angela Nixon are okay with that.

ANGELA NIXON: I could see that because I think that they're close. I think they're a close family, and I think that can be uplifting.

QUIRMBACH: But while the Greek brothers appear to be a model of family togetherness, the Bucks' other sibling pair can come across as more sarcastic toward each other. Twins Brook and Robin Lopez were college stars at Stanford a dozen years ago, but the seven-footers had never been on the same NBA team until Robin signed with the Bucks last summer. He told reporters that he did not consult his twin before joining Milwaukee.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROBIN LOPEZ: You know, Brook and I aren't talking that much, so you'd best believe I didn't run it by him first. You know, I don't have to run my decisions by Brook.

QUIRMBACH: Brook Lopez, who joined the Bucks last year, explains that the brothers' rivalry goes back to childhood.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BROOK LOPEZ: We'd go out and compete every single day against one another in the driveway, you know, in the playground. Wherever we were, we'd make each other better. We'd get physical. We'd get in fights. You know, one would go running back to mom, but we were always back out there every day.

QUIRMBACH: Bucks fan Francisco Camalas says he understands the apparent friction between the Lopez brothers.

FRANCISCO CAMALAS: That's how brothers work. I mean, me and my brother fight all the time. So that's how brothers do it.

QUIRMBACH: The Lopez twins look very different. Brook has short hair and is clean-shaven, while Robin has longer hair and a beard. Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer praises both brothers and makes it clear he coaches them as separate players.

MIKE BUDENHOLZER: Their personalities, their intelligence has just added to our locker room. Robin's been, you know, great, and he's his own unique person. They're different.

QUIRMBACH: After all, who minds brotherly support, or even brotherly conflict, when the team is winning nearly all of its games?

For NPR News, I'm Chuck Quirmbach in Milwaukee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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