(United States, 1973– )
The youngest member of the 1996 United States Olympic women’s basketball team that captured the gold, Rebecca Lobo had a prolific college basketball career, went on to become one of the original players for the WNBA, and was named to the 1999 All-Star Team.
When she was just a girl in the 1970s and 1980s, Rebecca Lobo dreamed about playing professional basketball. She was in third grade when she wrote a letter to the general manager of the Boston Celtics and informed him that she wanted to be the first woman to play for the team. He didn’t reply, but then, girls and basketball didn’t mix. The idea was as far-fetched as having a girl play basketball in the Olympics.
As Lobo grew to her full height of six feet four, she was rarely seen without a basketball in her hand, and her parents encouraged her to hold fast to her dream. Lo and behold, the tides changed.
One of her biggest dreams came true when she was named—as the youngest player on the team—to the 1996 United States Women’s Olympic “Dream Team.” The team went on to win a gold medal at the Olympic games held in Atlanta.
Her joy didn’t stop there. Lobo went on to become one of the original players for the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). Lobo was only five years old when she started playing basketball, mostly with her siblings. In addition to being an athlete, she remained true to her studies. In high school, she graduated as the class salutatorian. She played the saxophone and was in the school band. Lobo also enjoyed playing softball, soccer, track, and field hockey.
Her grandfather, who was from Cuba, helped her take pride in her Hispanic heritage. Her family has remained her constant source of support. When a teacher confronted her when she was a teenager and told her to stop playing with the boys and to try to start acting more feminine, they were there. It was a defining moment for her, because they supported her and her vision.
She was recruited by more than 100 different colleges. Lobo chose the University of Connecticut. She led the Huskies to an undefeated (35-0) season and went on to the 1995 National Championship. She also earned the college Player of the Year title. She was named the NCAA Women’s Basketball Player of the Year, the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year, and received two ESPY awards, including Outstanding Female Athlete of the Year, and Woman of the Year by the Women’s Sports Foundation.
She missed her college graduation because she was at the Olympic trials, but earned a bachelor’s degree in political science.
Lobo played for the New York Liberty from 1997 to 2002, when she was traded to the Houston Comets. In 1997, Rebecca was named to the All-WNBA Second Team and played on the 1999 All-Star Team in Madison Square Garden.
The entire experience was groundbreaking. There were professional female basketball players where once there had been none. A major television network like ESPN was covering the games, providing national exposure to the WNBA. Coverage showed there was a true audience interest in women’s basketball.
Her sense of commitment followed her off the courts. When her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, Lobo refocused her energies. Together they wrote The Home Team, which tells about their special relationship and their battle with breast cancer. The experience prompted her activism with several different organizations that support breast cancer awareness.
Retirement from her dream sport in 2003 came much too early, due to serious knee injuries, but she became a television basketball analyst.
Excerpt from: THE BOOK OF LATINA WOMEN: 150 VIDAS OF PASSION, STRENGTH, AND SUCCESS By Sylvia Mendoza
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