WHEN RUTHANN LOBO became pregnant with her third child, in 1973, her doctor looked her in the eye and said, "You know, you have a choice now." RuthAnn chose another doctor.
Rebecca was born exactly nine months and two weeks after Roe v. Wade, in the first full year of Title IX. When Rebecca was in fifth grade, her teacher sent a note home informing RuthAnn that her youngest child needed to stop playing with the boys at recess and to start dressing like a girl. RuthAnn didn't change her daughter's clothes. She changed her daughter's teacher.
There was a hoop in the driveway in Southwick, Mass., and Rebecca was content to shoot baskets all day, embracing routine like her father, now in his 51st year as a cross-country and track coach at Granby (Conn.) Memorial High. Nietszche said time is a flat circle, but to Dennis it's a flat oval, parceled out a quarter of a mile at a time.
Rebecca grew up with two siblings—Jason and Rachel—a cat (Froot Loops), a dog (Nike) and a guinea pig (Pinnywig). One evening Nike was sitting impassively in the front yard when a jogger preemptively maced him, at which time the jogger had to run for his life. Not from the German shepherd, mind you—from RuthAnn.
Dennis and RuthAnn sent Rebecca into the world armed with an iron will, a sense of humor and a medium-range jump shot. When she chose to attend UConn over Stanford and Notre Dame, RuthAnn—a guidance counselor—said with a sigh, "UConn is a safety school." Even so, in her senior year at UConn, in 1995, the unbeaten Huskies defeated Tennessee in the national championship game, a watershed moment in women's basketball, contested between two future Hall of Fame coaches: Geno Auriemma and Pat Summitt.
A year after that game, on one memorable day in Atlanta, Jason Lobo watched his kid sister's team win Olympic basketball gold and he met a volunteer named Gundi Oberhoessel, to whom he proposed marriage three weeks later. In 2001, at the Dublin House bar in Manhattan, Rebecca confronted an insecure sportswriter who had made a lame joke about women's hoops and invited him to attend a WNBA game. Twenty-three months later, they—which is to say we—were married.
When RuthAnn died of breast cancer on July 19, 2011, the largest of the countless floral arrangements sent by her many admirers was from a kindred spirit named Pat Summitt.
To our kids, Rebecca is now just Mom. She's away 100 nights a year broadcasting basketball on ESPN and makes dinner the other 265—even if it's charred meatballs on a white platter, a meal the kids have memorably dubbed Hate on a Plate. She's the handy one around the house: baller, shot caller, window-treatment installer. She never lets me or the kids win at anything, including H-O-R-S-E, a muscle memory from all those childhood days spent jump-shooting in the driveway just outside Springfield, the birthplace of basketball.
And so there was a localized outbreak of goosebumps last April, when she sent me a text that read: "Tonight you'll be sleeping with a Hall of Famer." From a strip-mall parking lot, I replied: "Yes! Larry Bird?"
Last Friday, Rebecca was officially enshrined in the Naismith Hall of Fame. It's 13 miles from Rebecca's childhood driveway, but she took the scenic route there, through Siberia, the Canary Islands, Rio and countless other places where she played and now broadcasts the game she loves. The wife of former Oklahoma coach Billy Tubbs once accused him of loving basketball more than he loved her. "Yes," Tubbs replied, "but I love you more than track."
If Rebecca should love basketball more than me, I'll be content because basketball has given us four children, three nephews, endless laughs and inspiration. "Is LeBron James in the Hall of Fame?" our 11-year-old daughter asked. When I answered no, our six-year-old daughter said, "So Mom is better than LeBron?"
"Damn right," I told her.
"Tonight you'll be sleeping with a Hall of Famer," Rebecca texted. I replied, "Yes! Larry Bird?"
WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE HALL OF FAMER?
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