By age 22, Rebecca Lobo had picked up a national college basketball championship, numerous player-of-the-year awards and Olympic gold at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

But the 6-foot-4 (193 centimeter) center’s future on the court was uncertain: She joined the Women's National Basketball Association in its inaugural 1997 season, at a moment when some questioned whether a professional women's league could survive for the long term.

The U.S. Olympic team was "a little bit of a test balloon (for the) market for women's professional basketball," Lobo, now a 47-year-old Basketball Hall of Famer and ESPN basketball analyst, told Reuters.