WNBA Biography: Lauren Jackson

I don’t know how else to say it, but Lauren Jackson has got G.A.M.E. That’s right, maybe director Spike Lee should have gotten Jackson to star in his iconic basketball flick, “He Got Game.” Of course, the loud diminutive one would have had to change the title to “She’s Got Game” but hey, that’s what kind of decisions big time Hollywood filmmakers get paid to make right?

Okay, this biography certainly isn’t about Lee, so let me begin with a look at Jackson’s illustrious career, which, by the way, should continue for at least another decade, barring injury of course.

Born in Australia, Jackson, is a high scoring forward for the Seattle Storm of the WNBA and the Australian national team The Opals, and until 2006, with the Canberra Capitals of the Australian WNBL. She is universally considered to be the best Australian female basketball player of all time.

Jackson was so good at such a young age that she played for the Australian women’s team, in 1997 as a 16-year-old and led the Australian Institute of Sport team, made up of the country’s best 16 to 18 year-old players, to a premiership in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) the Australian women’s professional league, in 1998-1999, an unprecedented achievement for a youth team. Ineligible to continue with the AIS team, she joined the other Canberra, Australia-based team, the Canberra Capitals, and led them to four titles in 1999-2000, 2001-02, 2002-03 and 2005-2006.

In the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, Jackson registered 20 points and 13 rebounds in a loss to the United States in the gold-medal game. The silver medal was Australian basketball’s first in international competition. In the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, The Opals went on to repeat as silver medalists, losing again to the United States in the Olympic final.

When Jackson declared for the WNBA Draft in 2001, she was a no brainer to be the first selection of the Seattle Storm, where she has played since.

Simply put, Jackson is a scoring machine who can either post up down low or shoot the three (she led the WNBA in three-point percentage in 2004). Jackson is also one of the most mentally tough athletes around too, shrugging off constant double and triple teams throughout her career with the greatest of ease.

In 2003, despite the fact that the Seattle Storm did not make the playoffs, she was voted as the WNBA’s Most Valuable Player that season after scoring nearly 22.1 points per game to go along with 9.3 rebounds.

In 2004, her Seattle Storm team won the WNBA Championship by defeating the Connecticut Sun, two games to one.
Like the majority of WNBA players who compete in other leagues overseas when the WNBA is not in season, Jackson returned back to Australia in October of 2005 and aggravated an old stress fracture injury in her left leg and was not expected to play again in the WNBL season. However, Jackson recovered more quickly than expected and returned to star for Canberra in the WNBL finals series, being named finals MVP in Canberra’s 05-06 title.

Incredibly, Jackson decided to leave her homeland of Australia after the 2005-06 season. While she had huge offers from clubs in Russia-she was reportedly paid over $200,000 to play a few games with a Russian club before the 2005 WNBA season.

She opted instead to sign a three-year deal with a Seoul, Korea-based club in South Korea’s national league. Although she would not earn as much money in Korea as she could in Russia, her salary will still be higher than what she could earn in Australia. More importantly, Korea’s season runs only from mid-December through early March, about half the length of the European season, and clubs in the league only play two matches a week. Jackson indicated that Korea’s shorter season played the main role in her decision to sign there, noting that it would likely prolong her career. Jackson will also continue to play in the WNBA during the Northern Hemisphere summer and in April 2006, she signed a three-year contract to stay with the Storm.

Off the court, Jackson posed nude in an Australian magazine, Black and White, that featured Olympic athletes who were set to compete in Athens in the 2004 Summer Olympics. The expensively-printed magazine/book has been produced for the last three Olympic Games, and by the 2004 edition, was considered relatively uncontroversial in Australia with its “artistic” approach to nude photography and its equal coverage of male and female athletes. While Jackson considered it an honor to be in the magazine, it was the subject of some controversy in Seattle. Unperturbed, Jackson also posed for the 2005 edition of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

This season, Jackson is scoring 20 points per game once again while averaging 7.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists to go along with her nearly two blocked shots per game.

I really don’t know how else to say it – Lauren Jackson is simply one of the greatest women basketball players of all-time – and on three continents no less.

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