Rebecca Lobo – New York Liberty

Rebecca Lobo remembers when she believed she controlled her career – where it would go and when it would end. “Now I understand,” says the New York Liberty’s 6’4″ center, “that’s not always the case.”

In her first two years in the WNBA, Lobo averaged 31 minutes, 12 points and 7 rebounds a game. But in the 1999 season opener she tore her ACL. Twenty-four months and a second ACL tear later, Lobo finally returned to the Liberty’s active roster. In high spirits at the 2001 Media Day, she laughingly demanded 38 minutes and a starting position – though a returning core of forwards, including All-Star Tari Phillips, made it unlikely.

The reality has been harsh: 71 minutes in 13 games.

“I’ve had to adjust my goals as the season has gone along,” Lobo admits. “Instead of saying ‘I want to help this team in 20 minutes a game,’ now it’s, ‘Whenever I’m called on, I have to be ready.'”

However disappointing, Lobo adjusts because she identifies herself as a team player, a role vastly different from the “marquee player” label others have attached to her since the league’s inception. For Lobo, teammate Phillips illustrates the difference perfectly.

“Tari can take anyone one-on-one and score 40 points,” explains Lobo. “I’m not that kind of player. I need someone to set me a pick and get me open so I can get my shot. I need to get some loose balls. It’s not the same kind of game.”

She knows there are people who question her talent, but she’s simply tuned them out. “If it meant sometimes during the season I wouldn’t go near a Sports section,” Lobo grins, “that’s what I had to do.” The appreciation of her teammates and coaches is enough. “When you can come into the locker room, and have [Teresa Weatherspoon] Spoon or Crystal [Robinson] say, ‘That was a big rebound,’ those are the things you play for.”

Ironically enough, while her injuries have stolen time, they’ve also given her a gift.

“I’ve gotten back to the childlike feeling I had when I played basketball for all the right reasons — for just the love of the game. I can, even for a couple of minutes, appreciate the noise the crowd. In the past, it would be ‘Just focus on the game.’ Now it’s, ‘Take a second and realize how cool this is.'”

Entering the WNBA, Lobo felt she had a lot to prove. She still feels the same, if for very different reasons. When will she get the chance? “I don’t know,” she answers, “but I’m going to get it. And when I do, it’s going to be wonderful.”

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