Lauren Jackson saw her No. 15 Seattle Storm jersey hoisted to the KeyArena rafters on July 15, 2016. One day before the ceremony, Jackson — one of the Storm’s and WNBA’s best-ever frontcourt players —confessed her struggles to fully accept her retirement.
“I think I am still going through it a little bit, especially coming back to Seattle and being in this environment,” she said. “I focused so much on trying to get back to the court that I think I put my feeling about not being here to the side in order to focus on my rehab. But when we landed in Seattle yesterday, I was crying. I don’t think I realized how affected I was by the retirement.”
Jackson may not have been ready, mentally, to hang up her basketball shoes but her body was. Persistent, lingering injuries decided the end point of what had been an illustrious career in her native Australia and in the U.S., where she played her entire WNBA career with the Storm and made eight All-WNBA Teams, appeared in seven All-Star Games, was thrice named league MVP awards and won two championships.
Five years after calling it a career, Jackson, 39, joins Val Ackerman and Yolanda Griffith as candidates for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s 2021 class. Her former Seattle teammate, Swin Cash, was nominated in 2019. Both Jackson and Cash, teammates on the 2010 championship-winning Storm, were inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame with the 2020 class.
Some facts about Jackson, her illustrious career and her Hoop Hall worthiness:
Lauren Jackson, literal game-changer
WNBA experience: 12 years
Known for: Death stare
8 All-WNBA Team honors (2003-10)
7 All-WNBA First Team and 1 All-WNBA Second Team (2008)
7 All-Star appearances (2001-03, 2005-07, 2009)
5 All-Defensive Team nods (2005, 2007-10)
3 MVP awards (2003, 2007, 2010)
2 WNBA championships (2004, 2010)
1 Defensive Player of the Year award (2007)
1 Finals MVP award (2010)
6,007 career points rank ninth all-time
2,444 total rebounds
1,391 free throws made rank 10th all time
586 blocks rank fifth all-time
317 games played/games started
84.2 percent free-throw shooting ranks sixth all-time (tied with Cappie Pondexter)
46 percent field goal shooting
35.1 percent 3-point shooting
31 career-high points (vs. Sacramento Monarchs in 2004)
18.9 points averaged per game
17 career-high rebounds (vs. Phoenix Mercury in 2010)
7.7 rebounds averaged per game
5.5 defensive rebounds
2.2 offensive rebounds
1.8 blocks averaged per game
1.4 assists averaged per game
1.1 steals averaged per game
1 overall pick in the 2001 WNBA Draft
Hoop Hall worthiness
Jackson not only brought two championships to Seattle, she redefined the WNBA frontcourt position. Listed as a forward/center, Jackson burst into the league flashing what, at the time, was considered uncommon versatility. Not limited to tipping in layups or scooping up rebounds in the paint, Jackson had a reliable midrange game and — like the hybrid players who would follow in her footsteps (Elena Delle Donne, Breanna Stewart and others) — Jackson could step behind the arc and drill a 3-point shot. She brought the seed of positionless basketball up from Down Under and forced the other players in the league to diversify their skill sets, contributing to the WNBA’s reputation as one of the most competitive professional sports leagues in the world.
WATCH: Storm retire Jackson’s No. 15 jersey
Jackson and her accomplishments forever will be linked to Sue Bird, the longtime Seattle point guard, whose eagle-eyed court vision and masterful basketball IQ contributed to Jackson’s success. Ahead of her 2016 jersey retirement ceremony, Jackson remarked on their conjoined legacies:
I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a team sport. It’s so great when you actually have somebody that you can say, ‘I played my entire career with this person.’ And that we were able to achieve what we did together, it’s awesome. It’s so weird to be able to share so much history and so much success with one person. People don’t even do that in marriages sometimes. We’re lucky.