It's been a long time since Robin Lopez was a young, highly athletic freak of raw basketball talent and emotional fury. He's settled into the life now of a middle age player with the New York Knicks where he'll be asked to anchor the defense, put back some Melo misses, and terrorize the occasional mascot for the enjoyment of all.
Never forget: basketball is entertainment and Robin Lopez knows about entertainment. His lifetime of dedication to the study of the comic book arts and all things Disney has prepared him perfectly to be the NBA's greatest heel.
But it wasn't always this way.
There was a time, roughly December 9, 2009, when the Phoenix Suns' 21-year-old was on the verge of something but it wasn't entirely clear what that something was. He'd barely played 10 mpg in his rookie year behind the resurgent Shaq and missed the first month of his sophomore campaign with a foot broken during training camp.
He was definitely a large man with a lot of energy but would he be an actual NBA center?
Not if he was getting schooled by Jarron Collins in 3-on-3 practice games. At least that's what the hottest of takes would have been if we knew then what is known now.
On that fateful early December day on the practice court beneath the arena Lopez was fighting hard to prove himself to a general manager (Steve Kerr) who predicted he'd be the best Lopez twin drafted and to a coach (Alvin Gentry) who let him off the bench for all of 2:48 the night before in a game against the Dallas Mavericks.
That Robin played with a passion was evident in his very first summer league where he assumed what would become his trademarked hunched over defensive stance and screamed in the face of some poor perimeter player who was just trying to keep his team's offense in some kind of flow.
That passion would resurface all too loudly in what's gone down in Phoenix Suns' lore as the Robin Door Incident. I believe that door is still called Robin's Door since he paid for its replacement.
That last part is only true in my mind. I seriously doubt any of the thousands of players or media or staff who have passed through that very same door have given any thought to its vital historical significance.
If by some chance you are unfamiliar with this matter of great import, I direct you to the dispatch I provided on that very day.
It was one of hundreds of times I stood on the baseline after practice listening to Alvin Gentry or some other Suns coach respond to whatever dumb questions we threw out. This day, however, is etched in my memory in the way only a traumatically loud explosion of glass followed by an equally loud explosion of Gentry expletives can achieve.
Over the years since Robin's Door there had been rumors in Suns' media circles that Jarron Collins of all people was the spark that ignited Lopez' dynamite on December 9, 2009. Jarron Collins was a deep bench player for the Suns known for his ability to commit up to six fouls per game and occasionally place his body in the path of an on-coming offensive player. He was thought to have the range of a poorly constructed paper airplane and was known to have the personality of a large teddy bear.
It was said around the pregame tables of perfectly adequate media buffet food that Jarron had drained the winning shot in Robin's face. A 15-footer followed by an equally unbelievable outburst of trash talking from one elder Stanford alum to his younger mentee. Could that possibly be true?
Thanks to the intrepid reporting of Mr. Bram Kincheloe for Golden State of Mind, we finally have the official answer from Mr. Collins himself:
"See, I love how this story just grows, you know. It's like Al Bundy from Polk High, 'the four touchdowns I scored that one game!' 'We're talking about practice?!' You know? (laughs).
[...] I can verify that I did hit the game winner. It was a fifteen foot jumper. I may have said something. And Robin did break a door. So, there you go."
There you go, Suns fans. Case closed. I hope whatever lingering resentment you had towards Robin Lopez during his time in Phoenix can be put into perspective by this career-altering incident in which he was beat by Jarron Collins and lost his shit on a poor, unsuspecting glass door.
You will hopefully also recall that Robin went on to take over the starting center job for that Suns team and his impact helped propel the squad to the third seed in the West and a conference finals matchup they perhaps would have won had the Door Buster not injured his back (ironically in game against the Knicks) late in the season.
Jarron Collins would take over Robin's spot in the starting lineup and eventually won a ring as an assistant coach on the Golden State Warriors where he worked under Steve Kerr and Alvin Gentry.
The circle is now squared.
Here's a little remix of the audio of the door breaking. You'll hear Gentry talking and then BAM! And then it loops a bit for fun.