Regarded as Australia’s greatest ever women’s basketballer and one of Australia’s top athletes, Jackson leaves behind a legacy as a four-time Olympic medallist with the Opals and an MVP on four continents.
Making the international Under-20’s side as a 14-year old and helping Australia to a silver medal at the 1997 World Junior Championships, Jackson’s abilities were evident from a young age and she was first called up to the Opals squad when she was just 16.
“When I first saw Lauren and what she could do on the basketball court, I knew she was someone special,” said ex-Opals head coach and current Basketball Australia High Performance General Manager, Jan Stirling.
“Throughout all of her accomplishments she has remained humble and through a 19-year commitment to the Opals, she never missed a major event.”
At the 1998 World Championships where Australia won bronze, Jackson developed her game alongside the likes of Robyn Maher, Michelle Timms and Rachael Sporn and just two years later, represented her country at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
Proving herself as a cool head in a pressure environment, the centre contributed 15.9 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game.
That included a 20-point, 13-rebound performance against the USA in the gold medal game as the Opals won silver.
It was their second ever medal at an Olympic Games and it would be soon followed by a bronze medal at the 2002 World Champs.
In Athens in 2004, Jackson improved her statistics to average a double-double of 22.9 points and ten rebounds as the Opals repeated their silver medal winning performance from Sydney.
Jackson then went one step further at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, reaching the top of the podium in front of a raucous crowd in Melbourne where she finished first overall for total points (31 per game), third in blocks and eighth in rebounds.
2006 evolved into her most successful year as the Opals added another gold medal to the tally at the World Champs in Brazil with Jackson playing as captain.
Hitting 6-14 from the field, the centre tallied 16 points and eleven boards as Australia defeated Russia in the final.
At Beijing in 2008, the Opals recorded their third straight Olympic silver medal after Jackson totalled five double-doubles in eight matches.
Her three-point shot was also at its most useful, hitting 12-33 at 36% from beyond the arc.
Jackson was still at the top of her game in what would be her final Olympic campaign in 2012, putting Australia on her back and carrying them to victory in the bronze medal playoff against Russia, collecting 25 points, eleven rebounds and two assists.
Aside from an incredible national career with the Opals, Jackson was also a highly successful player in the WNBA after the Seattle Storm selected her as the number one draft pick in 2001.
In her debut season, she made the first of seven WNBA All-Star teams while she was also named in the All-WNBA First Team five times from 2003-2007 and 2009-10.
In 2003, her average of 21.2 points per game helped to win the WNBA MVP award. She was the first non-American to be named the league's MVP and the youngest player to earn the honour.
In addition to that personal accolade, Jackson won the WNBA Championship the following year while averaging 20.5 points and hitting a career-high 45% from the three-point line.
Jackson assured her place in WNBA history with a second MVP award in 2007 before she re-wrote the history books in 2010 with a third MVP award, a second Championship and a Finals MVP.
Taking her talents to Korea, Jackson was named MVP of the Korean Women’s Basketball League in 2007 while playing for Samsung Bichumi and recorded a personal best 56 points during that season.
She was also a star in Europe, winning two EuroLeague Championships with Spartak MR in 2008 and 2009 as well as with Ros Casares Valencia in 2012.
The centre was named the Final Four MVP in the 2008 season, finishing first for points per game (23.6), first for three-point percentage (57%) and fifth for blocks (1.2).
“Lauren leaves behind a legacy that future generations of Opals as well as all young basketballers can look up to,” said Basketball Australia CEO, Anthony Moore.
“Her commitment to the Jayco Australian Opals and her work ethic should be honoured as well as her tireless efforts both on and off the court in the promotion of basketball.
“Throughout the USA, Europe, Asia and of course Australia, Lauren has left a lasting impression on everyone that saw her play and we are privileged to have witnessed her journey.”
Lizzie Joyce Publicity
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