Saturday, March 2, 2024

Basketball Hall of Famer Lauren Jackson retires after Australia qualifies for Olympics

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Basketball Hall of Famer Lauren Jackson announced her international retirement for a third time after helping Australia qualify for the Paris Olympics on Saturday.

“I’m done,” she said. “How fitting that I get to finish my national career with Australia in Brazil. So it’s very special.”

Jackson, 42, came out of international retirements to play at the 2022 World Cup in Australia (ending a six-year break) and again to play at last week’s Olympic qualifying tournament in Brazil.

Australia qualified to play in an eighth consecutive Olympics. Jackson averaged six points in the first two games in a reserve role. Australia has a final game Sunday against Serbia, but it already clinched its spot in Paris.

Jackson first played for the Opals, Australia’s national team, in 1997. She won three Olympic silver medals and one bronze with Australia from 2000 through 2012. The U.S. defeated Australia in the medal rounds each time.

Jackson was the No. 1 WNBA Draft pick in 2001 and won three MVPs with the Seattle Storm.

She retired in 2016 due to right knee and left Achilles injuries while bidding for a fifth Olympics. She gave birth to a son in 2017 and in 2018.

After being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2019, she started working out again to try and get in basketball shape — she had gained nearly 50 pounds since retiring.

She was working out with the coach of her hometown Australian Basketball league team. Matt Paps, the coach of the Albury team, said to her that he’d love to have her come back and play. She obliged in spring 2022.

In the World Cup later that year, Jackson scored 30 points off the bench in the bronze-medal game in what was thought to be her finale with the Opals.

Jackson continued to play in Australia’s domestic league and in December was named to a 20-player pool from which the Olympic qualifying team would be chosen, then was named to the final roster in January.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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