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Collected Wisdom: Rebecca Lobo, former UConn/WNBA star and ESPN broadcaster

Before becoming one of ESPN's top women's basketball broadcasters, Rebecca Lobo was one of the sport's pioneers. She helped lead Connecticut's rise as a national power, capping a perfect 35-0 season in 1995 with a national championship. Then, she became one of the founding members of the WNBA.
BY GINA MIZELL Published: April 6, 2013
/articleid/3780663/1/pictures/2004429">Photo - Former Connecticut player Rebecca Lobo is now a top women’s basketball broadcaster for ESPN. AP Photo
Former Connecticut player Rebecca Lobo is now a top women’s basketball broadcaster for ESPN. AP Photo

There was a stretch where Lisa (Leslie), Sheryl (Swoopes) ad I were the only players signed to the WNBA. So it was on us to be out there thumping the drum for this new league, and it was awesome. In New York, I remember them saying our first year that it cost $10 grand to get the curtain (for the upper deck) for (Madison Square) Garden, and we didn't use it for one game. We were that well-attended. It was a movement. It was this really, really exciting time for women's basketball.

I had never thought about (becoming a broadcaster), because there weren't games on TV. I remember being in middle school and watching Louisiana Tech win the national championship and it was on tape delay. And that was the only game that was on. I was a political science (major) in college and I thought I was going to go to law school. It wasn't until later on in my college career, probably my senior year, when they started showing a little more on TV. ESPN, when I graduated, approached me about doing studio stuff, and then UConn's local games were on their public television station there and they had me doing a few things. So I sort of fell into it, and I fell in love with it. I couldn't ask for a better job.

I had a really hard time critiquing players and what was happening (when I first started), because I was a player and I know what it felt like to be critiqued. And I wasn't completely comfortable yet in my knowledge of the game to feel like my opinion was worth anything. So that was really, really hard early.

As a sideline person with the WNBA, I worked with Doris Burke a ton. I was so fortunate, because she's the best in the business. Not only that, but she took a lot of time to help me along the way. Not only did I get to listen to her during the game and see her prep and see what she was looking at, but she took time — and still does — to encourage me and give me feedback. I was just super, super lucky — like with almost everything in my playing career — to be surrounded with some really helpful, great people.

I love seeing how far the game has come. I'm very quick to say, yeah, these are bigger, better, stronger athletes.

Because I was there from the beginning, especially in the WNBA, I also watch and say, ‘I hope these players continue to understand how lucky they are that we have a league here,' because for a long time we didn't. And the reason people come to watch is because we're different than the NBA players. And that's not just about how they play, but how they behave, and they need to take care of that.

I have four kids, three of them girls, and my oldest plays basketball. She's 8 years old, third grade. And it's not uncommon for one of her teammates (to say), ‘We watched this game on TV.' I couldn't do that when I was that age. So I appreciate it on that level, too, now as a mom of girls that see that this is normal and there are all these opportunities.


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