Australian basketballer Lauren Jackson will miss the Rio Olympics, retiring immediately from the game she’s dominated for nearly 20 years due to injury.
The 34-year-old four-time Olympic medal winner was hoping to make her fifth Olympics, but a knee injury she sustained in China two years ago has ended that record-equalling dream.
Jackson returned to the place where her career began as a 16-year-old, the AIS in Canberra, to break the news surrounded by her fellow Opals players, 19 years after she made her debut for the side.
“Today I’m announcing my retirement from the love of my life, basketball. It took me all over the world, gave me friendships forever, so thank you to everyone for being here,” she said.
Since damaging her knee in China, a series of further injuries have followed and she nearly retired in January when an infection put her in hospital.
“My knee ended up degenerating really, really fast and I got arthritis pretty quickly and since then I have had multiple surgeries trying to get back for the teams that I play with, obviously the Canberra Capitals and the Opals,” she said.
“In that time I tore my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in December and in January I got an infection in my knee joint, which put me back in hospital and set me back in rehab for about six weeks, which was pretty devastating.”
The 1.96 metre forward ends her career with silver medals from the Sydney, Athens and Beijing Olympics, as well as bronze from London, where she carried the Australian flag at the opening ceremony.
The Opals also won gold at the 2006 Commonwealth Games with Jackson as co-captain and silver at the FIBA World Championship in 2002.
Her talent saw Jackson join the US Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) in 2001, drafted to the Seattle Storm, helping lead them to two WNBA titles with the Storm, in 2004 and 2011.
She received the WNBA Finals most valuable player (MVP) award in 2011 and her stats rank her among the top WNBA players of all time. In 2012, despite missing much of the season to injury, Jackson became just the fourth WNBA player to reach 6,000 points
She was named WNBA MVP in 2003, 2007 and 2010 – the only non-American to receive the award in its 20-year history.
Jackson’s career also took her to Europe and teams in Russia and Spain, as well as the Korean Basketball League, where she was once again named MVP.
She was also named the Australian International Player of the year in 1999, 2000 and 2002 and three years later, inducted into the Australian Institute of Sport’s “Best of the Best”.
Opals coach Brendan Joyce paid tribute to Jackson’s legacy.
“Lauren is one of the greats of all time, in any sport,” he said.
Goodbye X pic.twitter.com/pT4FyYEZJb
— Lauren Jackson (@laurenej15) March 30, 2016
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