×

Lobo enters Hall of Fame 15 minutes from where she grew up

  • Inductees into the Basketball Hall of Fame Rebecca Lobo, left, and George McGinnis, smile as they sit together during a news conference at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, in Springfield, Mass. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill) Jessica Hill

  • Inductees into the Basketball Hall of Fame Rebecca Lobo signs her WNBA jersey during an autograph session with fans at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, in Springfield, Mass. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill) Jessica Hill

  • Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Rebecca Lobo, right, adjusts her jacket as it is presented to her by Naismith Hall of Fame President and CEO John Doleva at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Thursday in Springfield. AP

  • FILE - In this June 19, 1997, file photo, New York Liberty's Rebecca Lobo gestures in the closing moments of New York's 65-57 WNBA victory over the Phoenix Mercury at New York's Madison Square Garden. Lobo says she first realized she was part of something historic when she began seeing young boys wearing her New York Liberty jersey. Lobo, who helped popularize women's basketball at UConn and later in the first years of the WNBA will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, about 12 miles from where she grew up in Massachusetts. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File) BILL KOSTROUN

  • Basketball Hall of Fame inductees from the left, Lauren Meyers, accepting on behalf of her late great uncle Zack Clayton, Nick Galis, Robert Hughes, Mannie Jackson, Tom Jernstedt, Thelma Krause, accepting on behalf her late husband Jerry Krause, Rebecca Lobo, George McGinnis, Tracy McGrady, Muffet McGraw, Bill Self, and Naismith Hall of Fame President and CEO John Doleva pose for a group photo at the end of a news conference at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, in Springfield, Mass. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill) Jessica Hill



Associated Press
Friday, September 08, 2017

SPRINGFIELD — Rebecca Lobo says she wasn’t aware of her basketball impact until she saw children wearing replicas of her jersey.

The former UConn and WNBA star was in Springfield on Thursday signing some of those in advance of her enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Now an ESPN analyst, the 43-year-old mother of four says it was after the 1996 Olympics that she first noticed her name on the back of someone else’s shirt. But it was her first year in the WNBA, when she saw a young boy wearing her New York Liberty jersey that she figured out she might be making a mark that transcended basketball.

“I just remember thinking at the time, ‘Wow, does this mean he’s going to look at that little girl next to him differently,’” Lobo said. “If they’re out at recess and choosing teams to play soccer or whatever is he going to say, ‘You know I was at a Liberty game and those girls can play, maybe I’ll choose her.’”

Lobo will enter the Hall of Fame Friday, part of an 11-person with former NBA stars Tracy McGrady and George McGinnis, Kansas coach Bill Self, Notre Dame women’s coach Muffet McGraw, Texas high school coach Robert Hughes, Harlem Globetrotters owner Mannie Jackson, NCAA official Tom Jernstedt and former European star Nick Galis. Former Chicago Bulls general manager Jerry Krause, who died in March and former Globetrotters and New York Rens player Zack Clayton are being honored posthumously.

It’s a homecoming of sorts for Lobo, who grew up about 12 miles away in Southwick and visited the Hall of Fame with her family as a child.

“The people who were enshrined were almost like mythical figures to me,” she said. “I hadn’t seen any of them play, but knew they were titans of the sport. I never dreamed of being in the Hall or thought about it. It seemed like it was an accomplishment for others to aspire to.”

Lobo’s career numbers were not eye-popping. In college, she averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds. As a WNBA player, she put up 12 points and seven rebounds in her first two seasons before a serious knee injury limited her to 38 games in her last four years.

She enters the Hall as a “contributor” to basketball, which is something her college coach, Hall of Famer Geno Auriemma says is appropriate. Her impact, he said, was much bigger than the numbers.

As fans watched the 1995 UConn team go 35-0, they saw in Lobo a confident, talented, articulate leader of a scrappy team that played basketball with immense skill, poise and enjoyment.

She helped bring women’s basketball into the national sports consciousness, he said.

“Rebecca’s contribution to the game in some ways is to a whole generation of people and then some, immeasurable,” he said. “You can accurately say that for a three to four year period Rebecca Lobo was the most famous basketball player in the country, in the world maybe in the women’s game.”

WNBA President Lisa Borders said she also was crucial to that league’s success.

“Rebecca Lobo is a trailblazer who has played an essential role in the WNBA’s growth,” she said. “She inspired so many young girls and demonstrated what is possible for them.”