Now it’s a ritual. After every Southside Flyers game in the WNBL this year, Lauren Jackson pulls up a chair on the edge of the court to sign autographs and pose for photos. Sometimes there is a table.
Like the audience at Flyers, the queue grew, and in Perth the line snaked up the arena’s stairs to the second floor. Jackson stayed until it was gone.
“My teammates all went home. I had to go back to Uber,” Jackson said. “It’s special.”
Jackson was fascinated by the intergenerational makeup of his lines. Someone made a 2000 Canberra Capitals jersey for her to sign, and then when the legendary Australian basketball player first retired in 2016, some of the kids weren’t even alive.
“They never met me, they just heard about me through their parents,” Jackson said.
“It’s a really diverse crowd. People have always supported me and I feel like I have a duty to them and to the sport. It’s given me so much and it’s so special that I can now share it with all of you It, it’s the last time. What I said last time is once this thing, whatever it is, is done, it’s done.”
It’s not really a secret why young children were dragged to see Lauren Jackson play basketball one last time.this“A generationTon” Australia’s greatest basketball player of all time has made another surprise, and as long as her last dance is on, you can bet that the people lining up to watch Jackson won’t disappear.
Jackson’s comeback at age 41 is one of the most incredible stories in global sports in 2022.
After an illustrious 20-year career that included four Olympics, multiple WNBA titles, a WNBA MVP crown and a Naismith Hall of Fame induction (it’s a pretty condensed list), Jackson was forced to retire in 2016 due to a degenerative knee injury The pain continued. It was a sad, premature end, as Jackson battled pain medication, surgery and depression for many years to come.
But after participating in a medicinal marijuana trial last year, Jackson was able to start training and playing again and, in a remarkable comeback, went from playing for her local team in Albury to a FIBA tournament in Sydney in August. Australian Opals return to the World Cup.
now she’s running around perhaps Her final season in the WNBL.
“It’s never about chasing the farewell circle. I was talking to someone the other day and they’re leaving and it’s nice that you can retire on your own terms, you know, it was never about that,” Jackson said.
“When I retired it was tough, I got hurt, it was tough. But the six years I’ve had since I retired were the best six years of my life, and if I never picked up basketball again, I’d still be happy and fulfilled .. I will still have the same legacy.
“So it’s never about having a fairytale ending or anything like that. I really just want to get fit again. And that’s how the journey begins.”
After her two “angels” – sons Lennon and Harry – Jackson put on weight but had partial knee replacements, trying to train became painful. Good friend and US basketball legend Suberd suggested trying medicinal cannabis, which was trialled by Melbourne-based sports science company Levin Health with success. She will soon be able to hit the gym every day.
“I also made promises to myself that I would never fall into a downward spiral of taking harsher drugs, especially now that I had kids. I was a single mom and I had to be truly present and able to be there for them,” Jackson said.
“Once I started losing weight, I thought, ‘Oh, maybe I’ll play basketball’.”
A friend who had been an assistant coach at Albury asked if she would consider playing again. It was something she wanted to do at the end of her career, so Jackson agreed. Earlier in the day, she stepped onto the court and started shooting 3-pointers. She drank them all. The muscle memory is still there.
“It was a moment like ‘Wow, if I just had to be on the three-point line, I could do it’.” It was moments like this that made me realize that I actually love this game and that I’ve missed it, said Jackson.
Given that marijuana is on WADA’s list of prohibited substances, Jackson sought and obtained a therapeutic use exemption. As a sign of her stature, Jackson’s return to the WNBL’s modest Second Division garnered global headlines.
It also caught the attention of former teammate Sandy Brondello, who is now Opal’s coach. Within four weeks of Jackson’s return to Albury, Brondrow raised the possibility of Jackson playing again for Australia at the World Cup in Sydney in August.
“Obviously I had to pass milestones to be considered, strength, mental health,” Jackson said.
“When we had these meetings, in the back of my head I was like. ‘I’m never going to pass any of this stuff’. So, I just thought I’m going to keep trying, give it a try. My knees are going to be sore or I’m going to What happened. I couldn’t run that fast or lift that much.
“Think about where I come from, I had a knee replacement, I’ve had 30 or 40 surgeries in my life, and I have two kids. What the fuck am I supposed to do?”
Jackson made it through several Opals camps and passed the fitness test. She lost 20kg and, as a mother in her 40s, Jackson is actually stronger than she’s ever been in her career.
Suddenly, it was selection day. A video of the Zoom chat between Brondello and Jackson showed the legend left speechless when told of her success.
“I was kidding myself when Sandy called me that day,” Jackson said.
“If I missed out, it would be the ultimate disappointment, after all I’ve done all the work. I was kind of expecting her to say, ‘No, we can’t take that risk’.”
The World Cup proved to be all about Jackson and the new generation, and she showed she hasn’t lost her classroom and baking skills. The Opals didn’t win the gold medal, but they won a thrilling bronze medal match, with Jackson leading the way with 30 points.
During the screenplay scene, the crowd chanted “LJ” and gave her a long standing ovation. Jackson was lifted onto the shoulders of her teammates.
“I’ll remember this for the rest of my life. Even in the past, I’ve never seen any Olympics or [WNBA] Championship game, I never went back and watched it. But I’ve watched that game eight times. I’ll never forget. I think because my kids got to experience it, my baby Lenny was on the podium,” she said.
“The journey, the relationships I’ve built with the girls, being able to play again, playing the WNBL…all of it, over the last 12 months, has been the greatest journey of my basketball career so far. Because I’ve been able to work with My angels, my kids share it. And because I work so hard on it. I don’t take it for granted.
“I’ve always said that I don’t believe in fairy tales because not only the way my career ended, but when I was an athlete it was never perfect. I found the highs and the lows very hard to overcome.
“Like I said, the last six years have been incredible, having my kids and finding peace of mind is the best thing ever. Because last year really made me appreciate the sport and what it means to me .
“But it’s all a fairy tale when it comes down to it. If it ended tomorrow – it would be fantastic. You couldn’t have written it better.”
Jackson once again retired from international basketball, but is happy to sign to play for the WNBL’s Southside Flyers. She said it’s only now that she’s starting to seize the moment and start playing again.
Juggling motherhood, a part-time job with the Australian basketball team and training has been a challenge, but she loves every moment. Her boys attend most of the training sessions.
Considering what it allowed her to do, Jackson signed on to advocate for medicinal marijuana and to be on the sports advisory board for Levin Health, which also has Immortal Andrew Johns in the football league.
She believes more athletes should be able to use it as an option for managing chronic conditions.
“One of the good things that has come out of this is that I’ve been able to have these discussions with other athletes; ex-athletes, current athletes and athletes who want to try a different route than the traditional route we’ve taken over the years, and for me, that’s great for me. It’s not good at all,” Jackson said.
“I want to be a part of these conversations, and I want to reduce the stigma around using medicinal marijuana.”
Will the last lap continue next year?
“You know what, if the body holds up, maybe. Because I like it. And I’m getting better.”
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