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Rebecca Lobo: 1973—: Basketball Player - Popularity Helped Wnba

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As a member of the U.S. Women's Basketball Team sent to the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Lobo helped the squad win the gold medal, although as a younger player she spent most of her time on the bench. Although she considered playing professional basketball in Europe after the Olympics, a new professional league, the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) announced that it was gearing up for the 1997 season. Sent to the New York Liberty for the inaugural season, Lobo was one of the best-known players to join the league. Although she compiled a solid record in her first two seasons with the Liberty, Lobo was sometimes criticized as a player who earned more media attention than she deserved. As a 1999 Women's Sports and Fitness profile noted, "It is the compelling fact of Rebecca Lobo's professional career that her status as a player still does not match her marketing image." Lobo responded by explaining, "People have to understand what my game is. It's not all about numbers. There's a bigger picture here.… I don't create off the dribble. I rely on my teammates; my role is to set screens and get rebounds.… And I'll tell you what: In the next three years, I will be one of the best players in the league."

Lobo suffered a devastating injury to the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee at the start of the 1999 season; after re-injuring herself during a practice session, Lobo ended up sitting out the 1999 and 2000 seasons. She returned to the Liberty lineup for sixteen games in the 2001 season and was traded to the Houston Comets in April of 2002. Still recovering from her injury, Lobo slowly built up her court time and remained hopeful of her future in the WNBA. As she told the New York Daily News in July of 2001 in the midst of her recovery, "I think every time I go in a game, I have added something positive. I have gotten a rebound or made a defensive play. That is what I try to focus on. I hope that I will be able to look back on this and say it was a learning experience, too. I hope one day, I will be able to use this to better understand my role in games and understand the role of players coming off the bench. I hope this will one day be a positive experience for me."

Well respected by her teammates and fans for her down-to-earth demeanor and thoughtfulness, Lobo was also a favorite of advertisers. In addition to having Reebok sponsor a shoe with her name on it, Lobo also entered into endorsement deals with General Motors and Spalding sporting goods. Officially licensed sports apparel with Lobo's name on it consistently ranked among the top ten of all such items among professional athletes—male or female—during her first two years with the Liberty.

Active in charity work related to cancer treatment and recovery, Lobo acknowledged her status as a role model for young girls and women who sought out athletic opportunities. "I think athletes have a responsibility to realize that little eyes are watching them," she told NEA Today in 1998, "I want to be a good person and live my life the right way, keeping in mind that there might be a little kid who's watching what I do." Lobo also hoped that her influence would extend to young men. "When you come to our games, you see little boys asking for our autographs," she explained, "Maybe they'll treat little girls their age differently, or look at them differently, now and in the years to come."


Sources

Books


Brill, Marlene Targ, Winning Women in Basketball, Barron's, 2000.

Lobo, RuthAnn and Rebecca Lobo, The Home Team: Of Mothers, Daughters, and American Champions, Kodansha International, 1996.


Periodicals


Business Week, November 8, 1999, p. 8.

NEA Today, February 1998, p. 42.

New York Amsterdam News, April 25, 2002, p. 42.

New York Daily News, July 4, 2001.

Scholastic Coach, October 1995, p. 54.

Sports Illustrated for Women, January 1, 2001, p. 62.

Women's Sports and Fitness, July/August 1999, p. 68.


On-line


"Rebecca Lobo," UConn Huskies Basketball Website, 2002, www.huskieshoops.com/huskies/women/players/lobor.php (March 31, 2003).

"Rebecca Lobo" WNBA.com, www.wnba.com/playerfile/rebecca_lobo/index.html?nav=page (March 31, 2003).

"Welcome to RebeccaLobo.com," WNBA.com, www.wnba.com/rebeccalobo/fun_facts.html (March 31, 2003).

—Timothy Borden

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