Sunday, November 19th, 2017

Lauren Jackson ends her playing career where it began, former WNBA coaches heap praise on Aussie

Published on March 31, 2016

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Jackson’s WNBA Accolades || Social Media Reaction || WNBA Slideshow

This week, Australia’s greatest women’s basketball player hung up her sneakers and announced her retirement at the location where her storied career began. Lauren Jackson’s press conference at the Australian Institute of Sport, the site of the training camp for her country’s national team, was not a surprise but it marked the end of an era in women’s basketball, not just in her country, but worldwide.

“It really is so surreal retiring here where it all began 19 years ago,” Jackson said. “Today I’m announcing my retirement from the love of my life, basketball. It took me all over the world, gave me friendships that will last forever.”

The era began when the 34-year-old Jackson was 14 and a member of Australia’s World Junior Championship team. The squad won a silver in the competition. She joined the senior national team, the Opals, at the age of 16.

Drafted At 19

Jackson started a WNBA career at 19, already a star in Australia, when the coach and general manager of the Seattle Storm, Lin Dunn, selected her as the number one draft pick in 2001. Several teams offered Dunn trade offers for the top pick but she declined each one to keep her lock on drafting Jackson.

“Her ability and potential to become even better is very real,” said then-league president Val Ackerman. “It’s going to be a very good fit to have her in the WNBA. She’s going to be a future All-Star.”

Ackerman was right. Jackson is a seven-time All-Star (2001-2003, 2005-2007, 2009).

In addition, the three-time WNBA MVP earned two championships with the Storm (2004, 2010). Her list of accolades could fill a page.

The power forward’s matchups against the crème of the crop, including Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie, are legendary. Over the years, the two forged a mutual respect for each other’s game.

“Lauren Jackson was an extremely dominant player,” said Brian Agler who coached the Storm to their 2010 championship, “and one of the top five women’s players to ever play the game.”

On the Olympic level, she played in four Summer Games and helped her team gain worldwide recognition as one of the top national squads on the globe. Australia won the silver in 2000, 2004 and 2008 and the bronze in 2012.

She also spent time playing in Europe and in Australia’s WNBL, most recently for the Canberra Capitals.

“There are so many great things about Lauren Jackson!” Dunn exclaimed when asked about her former player’s impact. “A blend of a player—unique in our game—the post up skills of Leslie, the perimeter skills of [Tina] Thompson, the competitiveness of [Tamika] Catchings, the toughness of [Cynthia] Cooper. I loved all of that. But most of all, I really love how much she treasures her family, is so devoted to her beloved Australia and how she lives her life on and off the court with so much joy and laughter.”

Injury Woes

Injuries derailed Jackson’s ability to play well into her thirties. The last time she played for the Storm, where she spent her entire WNBA career, was in 2012. According to Agler, she has not been fully healthy since the Storm won the championship in 2010 with legendary point guard Sue Bird as the floor general.

“What made Lauren the best was a combo of great skill,” Agler said. “She was “extremely versatile, clutch, dominant offensively and defensively, competitive, a great athlete. She and Sue were the best tandem the game has seen because of how they complimented each other and brought the best out of each other. The Storm’s rich history of success is because of those two and how they played together.”

In her last summer in the WNBA, she was not able to play a full season. Consequently, she took time off from the league to rehab and later to train with her national team. She was also determined to play back at home in the WNBL. Her efforts included a stint in China.

“Two years ago I hurt my knee playing in China and it wasn’t a terrible injury but it was enough. I had to have surgery,” Jackson said about the series of setbacks she suffered. “I pulled my meniscus out of the root of my bone and I chipped the bone and I’d never had issues with my knees before so I thought I’d be back playing pretty quickly. I didn’t think it was a big deal. Nobody did, we were told I’d get back fine. My knee ended up degenerating really, really fast. I got arthritis pretty quickly and since then I’ve had multiple surgeries trying to get back for the teams that I play with, obviously the Canberra Capitals.”

Plus, after a torn ACL and an infection in her knee joint that caused hospitalization, it was clear she needed to consider retiring. She called the last of the injuries “pretty devastating.”

She Got It From Her Mama

MareeJackson

While she did not play in college in the U.S., her mother Maree, played for two years at Louisiana State (1976-1978), setting program and SEC records for rebounding. In her two years at LSU, the elder Jackson scored 1,852 points.

Agler predicted that if the younger Jackson “would have played at collegiate level in USA, we would be talking about quite possibly the best ever in USA standards.”

When “LJ” (as many of her teammates refer to her), gave her retirement speech, she had the current Opals, her family, friends and AIS medical experts with her on the court, the hardwood where it all started for a young girl from Albury, New South Wales.

Jackson’s WNBA Accolades

  • 6th All-Time in Career Points (6,007)
  • 8th All-Time in Career Rebounds (2,447)
  • 3rd All-Time in Career Blocks (586)
  • 6th All-Time in Career Field Goals Made (2,090)
  • 11th All-Time in Career 3-Pointers Made (436)
  • 6th All-Time in Career Free Throws Made (1,391)
  • 7× WNBA All-Star (2001-2003, 2005-2007, 2009)
  • 3× WNBA MVP (2003, 2007, 2010)
  • 2× WNBA Champion (2004, 2010)
  • 3× WNBA Scoring Champ (2003, 2004, 2007)
  • WNBA Finals MVP (2010)
  • WNBA Rebounding Champ (2007)
  • WNBA Defensive Player of the Year (2007)
  • 5× All-WNBA First Team (2003-2007, 2009-2010)
  • All-WNBA Second Team (2008)
  • WNBA’s All-Decade Team (2006)
  • WNBA’s Top 15 Team (2011)

Social Media Reaction

https://twitter.com/mikemulgs/status/715355861988716545


 

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