Rebecca Lobo

Rebecca Lobo

Induction Category:

Born: 1973

Inducted: 2016

Town: Granby

With her powerful presence both on and off the court, Rebecca Lobo has transformed women’s basketball. In 1995, she led the UConn Women’s Basketball Team to its first-ever national championship, launching what has become a basketball dynasty. A scholar, an Olympic Gold Medalist, and now a respected sports broadcaster, Lobo has used her influence to promote health and wellness, with particular emphasis on breast cancer awareness.

Born in 1973 in Hartford, Conn., Lobo is the youngest of three children. Her father, Dennis Lobo, was a history teacher, and her mother, RuthAnn, was a school administrator and Title IX coordinator. Throughout Lobo’s childhood, her mother made sure she had every opportunity to pursue her passion for sports. When Rebecca was in third grade, for example, she signed up to play basketball through her hometown’s parks and recreation department. When notified that not enough girls had signed up for the team, RuthAnn Lobo simply informed the coach that that meant her daughter had to be allowed to play on the boys’ team instead. Rebecca did play—and outperformed her male teammates.

In high school, Lobo continued to excel in basketball and made the varsity team at Southwick-Tolland Regional High School in her freshman year. She scored 32 points in her very first game and continued to shine throughout her high school career. By the time she graduated as salutatorian in 1991, Lobo had become the top-scoring basketball player, male or female, in Massachusetts state history.

More than 100 colleges across the country tried to recruit her for their teams, but Lobo chose to attend the University of Connecticut because it was close to home and also because she wanted to play for head coach Geno Auriemma. Speaking of his efforts to bring Lobo to Storrs, Auriemma explained, “We were in a position at the time where we needed somebody like [Rebecca] to stand out…Nationally, everybody was aware of who Rebecca was, and to be able to get someone like that to come to the University of Connecticut…automatically put us in a different light.”

The 6’4” center did not disappoint. She quickly rose to the attention of Husky fans who nicknamed her “Lobo Cop” because of her dominance on the court. During her four years in Storrs, the popularity of women’s basketball grew exponentially with the team drawing record crowds. Rebecca Lobo continued to shine both on and off the court, twice being named Big East Player of the Year and Scholar-Athlete of the Year—the first Big East player ever to win both titles. But it was the success of her senior year that cemented Lobo as a UConn basketball legend.

In the 1994-1995 basketball season, Lobo led the Huskies to their first undefeated season, capping it off with the program’s first-ever national championship. She was named Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Championship, Associated Press Player of the Year, NCAA Woman of the Year, Naismith National Player of the Year, and the Women’s Sports Foundation Sportswoman of the Year. She also received the Wade Trophy for her leadership, the prestigious Honda-Broderick Cup presented to the athlete “most deserving of recognition as the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year,” and the ESPY Award. After graduating from UConn in 1995, Lobo joined the 1996 Olympic Basketball Team that won gold in Atlanta.

Immediately following the 1996 Olympics, Rebecca Lobo became one of three founding players of the WNBA, helping to inaugurate the first professional league for women’s basketball. She spent the next six years playing for the New York Liberty, the Houston Comets, the Springfield Spirit, and the Connecticut Sun—and helping to establish the WNBA as a mainstay of American sports. It was during her time in the WNBA that Lobo met her future husband, sportswriter Steve Rushin. The couple married in 2003, the same year that Rebecca retired from professional basketball to begin pursuing a career in sports broadcasting at ESPN.

Even as she garnered accolades on and off the court, Lobo dealt with personal tragedy. During Rebecca’s senior year of college, her mother RuthAnn was diagnosed with breast cancer. As they traveled together and spoke to the public, they discovered that many people were interested in hearing their story and that their journey could help inspire others. Deciding to give back to the community that had rallied around Rebecca, in 1996 they authored The Home Team and, in 2001, founded the RuthAnn & Rebecca Lobo Scholarship for Hispanic students in UConn’s School of Allied Health. RuthAnn passed away in 2011 and, two years later, Rebecca helped to found the RuthAnn Lobo Award in Social Work at the University of Connecticut, dedicated to honoring the important work of hospital-based social workers who assist cancer patients and their families.

Rebecca Lobo has served as a member of the UConn Board of Trustees since 2004 and was featured as the university’s commencement speaker in 2008. In 2010, she was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame—the first UConn player to be so honored—and, in 2015, was one of 25 included in the inaugural class of the Eastern College Athletic Conference Hall of Fame. Lobo currently lives in Granby, Conn., with her husband and four children and can be seen as a college basketball commentator on ESPN where she is known for her intelligent, insightful coverage of the sport she has helped to promote and define for more than two decades.

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1966 - Today: Struggle for Justice