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Latinx Heritage Month

On this day in Latinx history: Hall of Famer Rebecca Lobo is born

Forward dominated at UConn before six-year WNBA career

When Rebecca Lobo entered the inaugural WNBA season, she most looked forward to little girls finally being able to sport their heroine’s jersey. Then she played a few games that 1997 season and witnessed little boys coming to the games wearing her jersey. She realized how much of an impact she stood to make over the course of her six-year WNBA career.

“He would be wearing a Rebecca Lobo Liberty jersey and he would be 8 years old, for example,” Lobo said at her 2017 Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame induction. “I remember even at that time, as young as I was, it hit me like, ‘This is big. Now at recess, when they’re playing pickup, might he think differently about the girl that’s there? Might he choose her for his team?’ At that time, there was that thought of, ‘This is changing the dynamics what boys and girls deal with in sports.’ ”

On Oct. 6, 1973, the All-Star forward was born in Hartford, Connecticut, to a father of Cuban descent and a mother of Irish and German lineage.

Observers knew Lobo was going to be a star as early as seventh grade, when she made varsity, and the timing of her accession played perfectly to how society was changing for women. Sixteen months before she was born, Title IX opened doors for countless women in Lobo’s generation.

As a freshman at Southwick-Tolland Regional High School in Massachusetts, Lobo became the first girls basketball player to drop 1,000 points in her freshman year. By the end of her varsity career and for 18 years afterward, she was the state-record holder with 2,740 points. Kelsey O’Keefe and Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, who eventually surpassed Lobo’s career point total, also dropped 1,000 points in their freshman years.

Then the 6-foot-4 forward helped lead UConn to its first national championship in 1995. That team, which included Jennifer Rizzotti and Kara Wolters and was coached by Hall of Famer Geno Auriemma, ran the table and went 35-0 her senior season. Lobo received the 1995 Naismith College Player of the Year and AP Player of the Year awards, the Wade Trophy and the Honda-Broderick Cup, which is presented to the athlete “most deserving of recognition as the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year.” Lobo, a distinguished student, was also the first athlete in the Big East Conference to earn first-team All-American accolades for both athletics and academics.

It was also just around 1995 that NBA owners voted to form the WNBA, and in 1996, Lobo played for the gold-medal winning Team USA women’s basketball team at the Atlanta Olympics. The next year, Lobo was assigned to the New York Liberty, in a market where she’d had a tremendous following, and she played alongside Teresa Weatherspoon.

In three of the first four WNBA Finals, the Liberty squared off against the Houston Comets’ Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson. The Comets prevailed in each of those matchups.

Lobo finished her playing career with the Connecticut Sun in 2003 and is now a basketball analyst for ESPN.

“I think it’s that I came along at the right time and I played for teams at the right time,” she said. “Hopefully, as a result of that, my influence will be that I shepherded those things along and didn’t do anything to thwart the advances that were being made.”

Rhiannon Walker is an associate editor at The Undefeated. She is a drinker of Sassy Cow Creamery chocolate milk, an owner of an extensive Disney VHS collection, and she might have a heart attack if Frank Ocean doesn't drop his second album.