Lauren Jackson AO was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2020 as an Athlete Member for her contribution to the sport of basketball.
Lauren Jackson remains widely regarded as one of the greatest Australian female basketballers of all time. She is a four-time Olympic medalist (three silver and one bronze), a FIBA World Champion (2006) and two-time bronze medalist (1998, 2002) and won Commonwealth Games gold in Melbourne in 2006. Jackson was the first overall pick in the 2001 WNBA Draft and was immediately identified as a ‘franchise player’ by the Seattle Storm. She played in the WNBA for over a decade between 2001-2012 where she won two WNBA Championships, was voted the League MVP on three occasions and was a seven-time WNBA All Star. She has consistently been named among the League’s all-time best players; in the WNBA All-Decade Team (2006), WNBA Top 15 Team (2011), the WNBA Top 20@20 (2016) and the W25 – the 25 greatest players in WNBA history – in 2021.
Throughout her career Jackson had stints at basketball clubs all around the world; in Europe, Russia, Spain, and China as well as South Korea, where she was named Women’s Korean Basketball League MVP, and set a league record when she scored 56 points in a single game. In Australia, she won five WNBL Championships, with the AIS (1) and Canberra Capitals (4), between 1999-2010, was a four-time League and Grand Final MVP and a five-time WNBL All-Star. In 2015 she was voted Australia’s greatest female basketballer, and in 2021 became the first Australian player to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, joining fellow SAHOF Member Lindsay Gaze OAM who inducted as a coach in 2015.
As the daughter of parents who both played basketball for Australia – her father Gary played for the Boomers in 1975, and her mother Maree played for the Opals between 1974-1982 and won two World Championships – Jackson’s tall, powerful physique along with her competitive mindset and mental strength were perfectly suited to the game that she was always destined to play the highest level – even as a very young player, she was described as a ‘basketball prodigy’. She started out at the Albury Sports Centre at just four years old and played her first game of competitive basketball as a six-year-old in a local U10 team. Even then she was already telling those around her that she would one day play for Australia. When she was eleven, she played in the U14 Australian Country Championships Final despite an injured knee. As a result of her injury and performance, she was upset after the game. Her parents sat her down and explained that she didn’t need to continue playing if she didn’t want to, however, following the conversation she wrote a note to herself stating that “from this day on, nothing will stand in my way…” and how right she was.
When she was fourteen, Jackson led New South Wales to National Championship gold and her performances in the tournament attracted the attention of national team selectors. She made her national debut at the U20 Championships that year and won the Bob Staunton Award as the tournament MVP. In 1997, as a 16-year-old, she accepted a scholarship offer from the Australian Institute of Sport and later won a silver medal with the Australian Junior Women’s Team at the World Championships in Brazil before leading an AIS team, made up of 16- and 17-year-olds, to the WNBL Championship. She then won bronze with the Opals at the 1998 World Championships in Germany – at the time she was the youngest Australian woman to be named on the team. In 1999 she returned to the WNBL for a second season and joined the Canberra Capitals, where she played off-and-on until 2006 and won a further four WNBL Championships.
Jackson made her Olympic debut for the Opals at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and won her first medal (silver). She led the team in points and rebounds and in the gold medal game against a dominant Team USA, she scored a 23-point, 13-rebound double-double. Unfortunately, the team fell short, going down to the Americans 76-54.
In 2001, Jackson nominated for the WNBA draft and was selected with the number one overall pick by the Seattle Storm. She played 32 games in 11 weeks in her first season which was a big step up in intensity from the 21-game WNBL seasons she was used to. But Jackson handled the transition well and in her first game scored 21 points, then broke the WNBA record for most minutes played in a single game with 55 against Washington in a game that had four overtime periods. She was named a WNBA All-Star in her debut year and at the end of season WNBA Awards, she finished second in the WNBA Rookie of the Year voting. During WNBA off-seasons, Jackson returned home to play with the Capitals – this was something she did consistently throughout her career – however, she required shoulder surgery after the 2001 season and missed the 2001/02 WNBL season. Jackson returned from injury for the 2002 WNBA season and was again named as a WNBA All-Star as well as the Storm’s captain – the youngest WNBA captain at the time. She was then a member of the Opals team that won silver at the 2002 World Championships in China and by 2003 had played 100 international games and was named the International Basketball Federation’s Most Valuable Player.
Jackson was a WNBA All Star again in 2003 and was named in the 2003 All-WNBA First Team after she averaged 21.2 points per game. During the season she became the youngest player to score her 1,000 WNBA points and was the first non-American born and youngest player to be named the league’s MVP. Then, in 2004 she won her first WNBA Championship and was again named to the All-WNBA First Team.
Jackson entered the 2004 Athens Olympics as one of the game’s biggest stars and lived up to her reputation as she averaged 22.9 points and 10 rebounds per game. She led the Opals to a second consecutive silver medal – against Team USA, the same opponent in their gold medal match in Sydney. After heading back to Seattle for the 2005 WNBA season, she earned her fourth consecutive WNBA All-Star jersey and was again named on the 2005 All-WNBA First Team.
In 2006, Jackson was named as co-captain of the Opals for the Melbourne Commonwealth Games and led the team to the gold medal after defeating New Zealand in the final. She was captain of the gold-medal-winning Opals team at the 2006 FIBA World Championships in Brazil – the first time Australian team to win World Championship gold – and was central in discussions with Basketball Australia to have commemorative diamond rings made in honour of the win. Jackson’s form line was almost irresistible at this point, and it led her into the 2007 WNBA season, one that could arguably considered Jackson’s most fruitful as she was named a WNBA All-Star, the WNBA MVP, the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year and on the 2007 All-WNBA Team. She averaged more points than in any other WNBA season (23.8) and, in a game against Washington, she set a league-high single game scoring record with 47 points – it’s a record Jackson still shares to this day. During the season she also became the first WNBA player to surpass 4,000 career points. In all, she finished the season ranked in the top ten in no less than twenty-eight different statistical categories.
As captain of the Opals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Jackson led the team to yet another silver medal – the team’s third consecutive – with 17.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game – and later that year, in the FIBA Diamond Ball Tournament for Women, she averaged 20.3 points and 5 rebounds per game. Jackson battled through the 2008 WNBA season which was a less memorable one for her. A season-high 33-point game – again against Washington – was the highlight and surgery to fix a problematic ankle injury an obvious lowlight. Unfortunately, her team the Seattle Storm failed to make it to the second round of the playoffs. Jackson bounced back in 2009 and became a WNBA All Star for the seventh time, was named on the 2009 All-WNBA Team and shot an impressive 43% from the three-point line – all despite suffering stress fractures in her back.
In 2010 Jackson won her second WNBA Championship with the Seattle Storm, was named to the 2010 All-WNBA Team, and played for the WNBA All Star Team in the Stars of the Sun game. Prior to Game One of the Storm’s Western Conference Finals series against Phoenix, she was presented with her this WNBA MVP Award – Jackson went on to lead the Storm to the WNBA Finals, where the team defeated the Atlanta Dream, and was named the WNBA Finals MVP. She also led the Opals to the 2010 FIBA World Championships in the Czech Republic.
Prior to the 2011 WNBA season, Jackson was voted by fans into the WNBA Top 15 Team as one of the Top 15 players in the WNBA’s fifteen-year history. Unfortunately, injury struck again throughout 2011 and kept her out for the majority season – she injured her hip against Tulsa which required surgery and missed 20 games, however, on her return the Storm went on a winning streak, claiming eight of their remaining nine games.
2012 was Jackson’s fourth and final Olympic year but she was hampered by injury and couldn’t train with the Opals until April, then in June, she tore her adductor muscle which significantly disrupted her Olympic preparations. She sat out most of the WNBA season in an attempt to be as fit as possible for the London Games. At the Games, Jackson was chosen to carry the flag for the Australian Olympic Team at the Opening Ceremony – due recognition for her incredible Olympic career in which she became the highest points scorer in Games history. Her tournament was hampered by injury, this time a hamstring strain kept her out for most games, however, the Opals rallied around her and took home an against-the-odds bronze medal. She returned to the WNBA in September to help the Storm to two blowout wins against Tulsa and became the fourth WNBA player in history to score 6,000 career points. Her final WNBA game came in the 2012 playoff series against Minnesota, although she remained signed to the Storm until the end of 2014. These injuries also meant Jackson was unable to compete with the Opals at the 2014 FIBA World Championships.
In 2013 Jackson underwent hamstring surgery and missed the entire WNBA season, then had knee and Achilles tendon surgery in 2014 that ruled her out of back-back seasons. She hoped to return to action with Seattle in 2015, however, her knee had other ideas and required further surgery so, her focus turned sharply to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Jackson tried desperately to get into shape for the Games – she wanted to use them as an international career swansong – but unfortunately her injuries didn’t heal sufficiently, and she conceded she’d need an “absolute miracle” to be fit in time.
Sadly, that miracle didn’t eventuate, and she announced her retirement from international basketball and the WNBA in early 2016.
Throughout her incredible WNBA career, in the off-season, Jackson played regularly in the WNBL for the Canberra Capitals where she won four WNBL Championships, was named the WNBL MVP on four occasions and an All Star five times. She also performed with distinction in the Russian, Spanish, Korean and Chinese club competitions, winning many honours.
Jackson played in four Olympic Games and won four medals (three silver, one bronze), and captained the Opals in 2008 and 2012. She led the team to the 2006 FIBA World Championship in 2006, after two bronze medal finishes in the previous two tournaments, as well as to silver at the 1997 Junior World Championships and Commonwealth Games gold in 2006.
Following her retirement Jackson became an administrator for the game she loves saying that saying, “Where I put my time and energy is now crucial. I want to get involved in the political side of sport rather than the media and I need to learn from the people who have been there before.”. She was appointed as the Head of Women’s Basketball at Basketball Australia and as Managing Director, Empowered Athletes Transition Program in 2018 and in 2021 Basketball Australia announced a new strategic role for her which allowed her to focus on the BA Women and Girls Strategy to deliver outcomes in gender equality in basketball.
Honours and Achievements
- 1999, 2000, 2002: Named Australia’s International Player of the Year
- 2005: Inducted into the AIS ‘Best of the Best’
- 2001: First Australian to be selected with the No 1 overall pick in the WNBA Draft
- 2011: Albury Sports Stadium renamed “The Lauren Jackson Sports Centre”
- 2015: Made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO)
- 2018: Won the IOC Women in Sport Award for Oceania
- 2018: Graduated from Canberra University with Bachelor’s Degree in Gender Diversity
- 2018: Appointed as Basketball Australia’s Head of Women in Basketball
- 2019: Inducted into the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame
- 2020: Inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame
- 2020: Inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame
- 2021: Inducted into America’s Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame as an International Player
- 2021: Inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
- 2021: Appointed to the WNBA 25th Anniversary Advisory Board
- 2021: Appointed to the Sport Australia Hall of Fame Board