HARTFORD, Conn. - If a single photograph could sum up the dawn of a dynasty, this is it: No. 50 in Connecticut white-and-blue pointing two No. 1 fingers toward the roof of Gampel Pavilion, eyes wide, mouth agape, the Huskies' new place atop the women's basketball world now secure.
That was 24 years and 11 national championships ago. UConn, then the No. 2 team in the country, dethroned No. 1 Tennessee in January of 1995 and later beat them again in the national championship game to cap a 35-0 season. So It's fitting that Rebecca Lobo's No. 50 will be unveiled as the first number retired by either basketball program at UConn during Saturday's game at Gampel, preceding the retirement of Ray Allen's No. 34 by a day. Lobo, like Allen, is Husky royalty, but her impact far exceeds the four years she spent in Storrs.
As the ceremony approaches, here are seven things to know about the first Husky whose digits will be taken out of circulation:
1. Her parents, both educators in Connecticut, viewed UConn as a safety school
Lobo's father, Dennis, continued to coach cross country at Granby High long after he retired from teaching there in 2004. And her late mother, RuthAnn, was a middle school guidance counselor in the same town, where she championed Title IX rights. So when it came to Rebecca's education, her parents were very particular - and actually preferred the offers she received from Stanford, Duke and Notre Dame to the one from the brash coach in her backyard. "I was meant to play at UConn," Lobo said on the eve of her Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction in 2017. "I was meant to play for Coach Auriemma. I followed my heart. My parents quickly came to believe it was one of the best decisions I ever made."
2. She helped deliver the title that launched a dynasty
Alongside Jen Rizzotti, Kara Wolters, Nykesha Sales and Jamelle Elliot, Lobo helped win the title that started it all. The Huskies' perfect season culminated in a 70-64 win over rival Tennessee at the Target Center in Minneapolis, and with it came the first of 15 banners shared between the men's and women's programs over the past quarter-century. For her part, Lobo did what stars do, recovering from early foul trouble to score 11 of her 17 points in the second half and earn Final Four most outstanding player honors.
3. She was the first in a long line of UConn players to garner national accolades
UConn has had 10 players capture individual player of the year awards in the Geno Auriemma era, but Lobo, who was a high school All-American playing less than 20 miles from Springfield, Mass., was the first. In 1995, she snatched up all the hardware, including the Wade Trophy and the Naismith Player of the Year award. Her 2,133 career points put her just outside the top 10 on the Huskies' all-time list and she still ranks third in rebounds with 1,268. She was the ninth player assigned to a WNBA team when the league held its inaugural draft allocation in 1997 and made her lone All-Star appearance in 1999.
4. She has crossover appeal
How many pro athletes have an IMDb profile this long? Lobo has appeared on Sesame Street, Jeopardy, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, The Daily Show, The Late Show with David Letterman, Mad About You and Martin. She's also a mainstay in the Travelers Championship Celebrity Pro-Am - and routinely enjoys a height advantage over the professional golfers with which she's paired.
5. There's no one better when it comes to interviewing Geno
In her role as an ESPN analyst, Lobo frequently interviews Auriemma during marquee games, and the chemistry with her former coach is undeniable. Her wit was first apparent during her playing days and Auriemma remains a frequent target for a jab or two. During her Hall of Fame speech, for instance, Auriemma, who introduced Lobo, sat on a chair behind her as she spoke. "I thought you only sat on the throne?" Lobo said. Of course, the poignant speech she gave concluded with a heartfelt message for Auriemma: "You have completely changed my life, and I am here tonight completely because of you. Thank you."
6. She showed a sports writer the error of his ways, then married him
By now, the story of how Lobo met her husband, the wry Sports Illustrated columnist Steve Rushin, is part of her legend. When the magazine published a story by Rushin that included a quip about what he perceived as a lack of enthusiasm for the WNBA, Lobo wasn't shy about approaching him in a New York bar. She invited Rushin to attend one of her New York Liberty games at Madison Square Garden, insisting the crowds were quite a bit bigger than he had portrayed them - and they were married within two years. The couple has four children, all of whom attend Catholic schools in Connecticut.
7. Her contributions to women's basketball aren't confined to the court
When Lobo was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017, her designation was "contributor," which might seem it's selling her on-court profile short. On the contrary, Lobo's resume - which includes an Olympic gold medal - extends far beyond her playing days. As Rushin noted in a story prior to her Hall of Fame induction, "she's the handy one around the house: baller, shot caller, window-treatment installer." She juggles the demands of her ESPN job with coaching her kids' basketball teams and serving on the board of trustees at her alma mater. Among several charitable endeavors, Lobo is fiercely devoted to the cause of fighting breast cancer, which claimed the life of RuthAnn Lobo in 2011.
"No one in all the years that I've been (at UConn), has had the impact on the court and off the court, that Rebecca has had," Auriemma said when he introduced Lobo at her Hall of Fame induction.