Lauren Jackson is the most dominant basketball player Australia has ever produced. Not only did she reign in the paint, but also beyond the arc. Most importantly? She held her own, off the court too.
To say that Lauren Jackson changed the trajectory of Australian women's basketball is a gross understatement. Not only did she transform the Opals into a legitimate contender on the world stage, she inspired the current and next generation of basketball stars.
The willingness, or rather the need, that Jackson felt to represent Australia in international competitions set the standard for those around her.
The stats speak for themselves.
4 x Olympian (3 silver medals and 1 bronze)
3 x World Championships, Australia representative (1 gold medal and 2 bronze)
1 x Commonwealth Games, Australia representative (1 gold medal)
Lauren Jackson's influence went far beyond winning games of basketball. She was always sincere with her fans, and devoted much of her energy towards inspiring and teaching young kids the game that had given her so much. Former Boomers coach, Brett Brown calls her Australia's crown jewel of women's basketball, and that might not be too far from the truth.
I'll never forget the first time I saw Lauren Jackson play in person. It was 2010, at Dandenong Basketball Stadium and I was 13 years old. I was sitting there riveted, and glued to her every move. I remember thinking, Lauren Jackson, THE Lauren Jackson, was just metres away from me.
As usual, Jackson dominated. She put up a lazy 33 points (11/18 FG and 10/11 FT), 7 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks and 1 assist. Her Canberra Capitals ran away with the win in what was just another day at the office for LJ.
It was what Jackson did after the game that made me truly admire Jackson. For what must've been at least half an hour, Jackson stayed back, sitting with the fans, signing autographs and taking photos with every single fan that wanted one. Jackson didn't have to do this, but she did and did so in a manner that made every fan feel special.
Jackson is the reason I fell in love with the game of basketball. And although I'll never make it out of my local basketball league, she proved to me that with hard work and dedication, greatness is attainable in which ever path life takes you.
She understood her platform and used it for good. The game gave LJ so much, and she gave the game everything she had.
It's a testament to the hard work and dedication to her craft that she carved out the greatest basketball career our country has seen, given the tumultuous injuries she had to fight through for much of her career.
Her career was filled with challenges and the injuries ultimately cut short her career, but there can be doubt that Jackson fought to the very end. Her mind is willing, but her body is sadly not.
Jackson's WNBA career was exactly what the league needed. A superstar the fans wanted to watch and a person that wanted to see the game grow.
Legendary team mate and friend, Sue Bird summed it up perfectly.
image via Seattle Storm Facebook page
LJ achieved everything there is to achieve in the WNBA. Her list of accolades are extraordinary, highlighted by;
2 x WNBA Champion
3 x WNBA MVP
8 x WNBA All-Star
For Seattle, Jackson was the cornerstone of the franchise in a period filled with success. When Seattle needed something to happen, it more often than not included Jackson.
The most telling sign of the greatness of Jackson's career is the fact that a female athlete is even in the conversation of Australia's greatest basketball player of all time. This just doesn't happen, and in today's sporting landscape it is a breath of fresh air and proves Jackson has forced Australia to respect and admire the women's game.
Lauren Jackson is a winner, a superstar, a role model, and a leader. Lauren Jackson is a national treasure.