Storm honors Lauren Jackson, retires jersey of legend

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It was a good day for the Seattle Storm at KeyArena. On a night when the franchise retired the jersey of Storm legend Lauren Jackson, the team routed the Washington Mystics 80-51. The visitors (9-13) never had a chance as the Storm (8-13) led wire-to-wire jumping out to a 26-15 lead in the first quarter and never looking back. The Storm led 41-23 at the half.

Second-year guard Jewell Loyd paced the Storm with 26 points, going 11-of-17 from the field. She had 18 points in the first half alone. It was the eighth 20-point game of the season for Loyd.

“It’s a statement win for us,” she said postgame. “Obviously having Lauren (Jackson) here made it a statement game and that just helped us in getting our momentum going for this next stretch.”

Veteran guard Sue Bird was also in double figures with 12 points plus seven assists. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had a season-high 12 points on four three-pointers. Rookie sensation Breanna Stewart was held below her season average of 19.5 points per game but still managed to score 10 points, pull down seven rebounds and dish out eight assists.

Emma Meesseman led the Mystics with 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting. She also grabbed 10 rebounds. Kahleah Copper contributed 12 points and five rebounds off the bench.

Overall, the game was a disaster for the Mystics.

“We just weren’t good out there,” Meesseman said. “We missed layups and easy shots – it was just a bad day. Even on defense, everything went wrong and there was no communication. Everything that could go wrong did.”

Mystic head coach Mike Thibault agreed.

“We were awful and they were really good. We could see it coming with the momentum after the first quarter. Watching Seattle on tape the last couple of games, we could tell they’re getting better and they took it out on us.”

The Mystics host New York next Wednesday. Seattle returns to action on Sunday, hosting Chicago.

The Storm began honoring Jackson before the game by introducing her as a sixth starter for the night’s matchup. Jackson sat courtside to watch her former team dismantle the Mystics in front of a sold out crowd of 9,686 fans.

“It felt like the good old days,” Storm head coach Jenny Boucek said postgame. “This was big. We talked about it before the game, not trying to negate this. There are some attributes of Lauren that this team needs and are important to have. We wanted to enjoy this crowd and show them the new brand of basketball that still has Lauren and Sue written all over it. It’s a style that they both thrived in. We have similar players that are enjoying that. To have a packed house, have people involved that haven’t been here for a while, it just felt like the good old days. When Lauren comes around, everybody’s shoulders go back.”

The arena remained packed for the postgame ceremonies which was emceed by Storm play-by-play announcer Dick Fain. Storm current and former executives gave speeches as well as Bird and Boucek. All of the team’s former head coaches sent video tributes to Jackson: Lin Dunn, who selected the former star as the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2001 when she was a 19-year-old phenom, Anne Donovan and Brian Agler.

A video message from WNBA president Lisa Borders played first, followed by the coaches then former WNBA and Storm players including:

  • Ticha Penicheiro (Retired, WNBA player agent)
  • Tina Thompson (Retired, Assistant coach, University of Texas)
  • Erin Phillips (Dallas Wings)
  • Abby Bishop (Seattle Storm)
  • Tully Bevilaqua (Retired)
  • Charmin Smith (Associate Coach, University of California, Berkeley)
  • Katie Smith (Associate Coach, New York Liberty)
  • Tanisha Wright (New York Liberty)
  • Swin Cash (New York Liberty)
  • Ashley Robinson (Retired)
  • Camille Little (Connecticut Sun)
  • Alysha Clark (Seattle Storm)
  • Adia Barnes (Head coach, University of Arizona)

“I think it’s great for everybody to have a chance to say goodbye to Lauren,” said Boucek. “That’s something we wanted to do since we knew she wasn’t going to be able to come back and play. It really is unique to have two iconic players, Sue and Lauren, who are cornerstones of a franchise upon which we built a very strong foundation, who are still deeply involved and deeply passionate about the present and future of this franchise. They’re giving so much back. You should have heard her when Lauren talked to the team the other day. She and Sue just imparted so much wisdom into our team; things that I think will have a significant impact on our group. I don’t know if there’s a better situation than that, where you have two players of that caliber that together are giving back to the next generation of the franchise.”

Boucek and Bird told funny stories about Jackson but also got emotional talking about their friend.

“I’m not at all surprised I was emotional,” said Bird. “I knew I would be okay through most of it but I knew the end was going to get me. I really do wish she was still playing with me, so there’s always that part of it too. I watch movies and cry so it’s not that surprising that I was so emotional. This is very close to home.”

For Bird, winning the game with Jackson in the audience was “symbolic.”

“It was a good mood-setter and definitely the icing on the cake. I was just talking to Jewell in a more serious moment and told her ‘Great job today, you had awesome composure’ and she responded with ‘Yeah, I guess Lauren brought it out of me’. Everyone understood what this day was, and the building was packed so there was lots of energy. All in all you couldn’t have asked for a better night.”

Jackson’s jersey was the first-ever to be retired by the franchise. In interviews since arriving in Seattle this week, she said she has been overwhelmed by emotion on returning to a city that is dear to her and seeing fans.

“It was funny, I was doing an event before the game and this little girl, who used to come to games when I was here, is a teenager now — I don’t know how old she is — but my tears were just coming and I lost it completely when I saw her. It’s hard. I wish I was still playing, too.”

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