Lauren Jackson’s career in green and gold is over but one of the greatest of all-time has gone nuts as Australia claimed bronze at the Women’s Basketball World Cup.
The 41-year-old retired back in 2016 due to chronic injury but the Hall of Famer shocked everyone when she came back and was thrust into the Aussie World Cup squad.
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While Jackson has been a bit player in Australia’s tournament having tallied and average 6.1 points, 1.6 rebounds and 0.1 assists in her limited game-time, her swansong was something special.
Jackson scored a game-high 30 points as well as seven rebounds in just 21 minutes.
Opals great Michelle Timms was in disbelief, stating “this is insane” just before Jackson hit her 30th point.
The dream of gold medal send off against Team USA ended on Friday night when the Opals lost a heartbreaker to China 61-59, resigning the team to a bronze medal playoff against Canada.
But the Aussies made no mistake, scoring a 95-65 thrashing on the shoulders of Jackson’s perfect final statement.
Retired Opals skipper Jenna O’Hea said on ESPN after the match Jackson’s legacy was further cemented with her final act.
“She’s the GOAT,” O’Hea said.
“She’s done it on the absolute world stage, everywhere she goes, she’s a winner and she was not leaving here without that bronze medal.
“If you ask who the greatest players are, she’s always in the conversation. That’s not just females — it’s just basketball players. And that’s the legacy she has.”
Jackson spoke after the game and said she felt tears coming.
“Right before the game, it dawned on me, it literally hit me that this was going to be the last game I ever play for Australia,” she told ESPN.
“Because of how special this whole tournament has been, this whole journey has been for me, I got pretty emotional about it before I left.”
Jackson said she had no idea where her 30 point game came from.
She thanked her family and her children for the sacrifieds they have made.
Throughout the broadcast, the commentators said that the Paris Olympics was just two years away, could she make it?
“No way,” Jackson said before the statement left Neroli Meadows’ mouth. “Absolutely no way, my kids would absolutely… I couldn’t do it to my children. It’s just taken too much to get here. But it’s been amazing.”
The bronze medal match made Jackson the equal all-time leader in World Cup matches with her 43rd match, while she also is the third highest scorer in history.
Jackson released a statement on Saturday morning confirming it would be her last match in the green-and-gold, ending a glittering career which included four WNBL MVPs and five titles, three WNBA MVPs and two WNBA titles as well as a World Championship gold medal in 2006, three Olympic silvers and an Olympic bronze amid a host of other accolades including induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
“It dawned on me that this will be last ever game in green and gold and how lucky I am to have had this opportunity to represent Australia and also say goodbye, I didn’t get that chance all those years ago. I’m so proud of our Opals girls and regardless of the result this has been the most incredible journey of my basketball life.”
It’s unknown whether this will also bring an end to Jackson’s career with Albury-Wodonga in the NBL1 competition as well but the reaction was swift.
NBL star Mitch Creek posted: “You’re a champion! Amazing tournament so far by you all. Not done yet! Let’s gooooo”.
Tennis great Rennae Stubbs added: “AussieLegend and Icon!!”
AFL great Brendan Fevola simply posted the goat emoji.
Former Aussie teammate Tully Bevilaqua wrote: “Love love love you!!”
Three-time Olympic Opals and Boomers coach Brendan Joyce commented: “Congratulations on a wonderful career LJ”.
Retired Opals skipper Jenna O’Hea said on ESPN before the match: “In her message, she said she didn’t get to say goodbye all those years ago when she retired. If this won’t inspire this team then nothing will.
“Lauren has been a hero to pretty much every person in this team. We all grew up watching her and now they get to play alongside her and hopefully win a bronze medal with her.”
Jackson had a hero’s welcome to the game, being met by her family and supporters outside the team hotel and easily getting the loudest cheer when the team was introduced onto the court.
And the festivities continued well after the final siren as fans went berserk for the legendary Aussie.