Australian basketball legend Lauren Jackson made the nation’s roster for next month’s FIBA World Cup in Sydney after coming out of a six-year retirement at age 41.
“There were a lot of emotions when [head coach] Sandy [Brondello] rang me, I had a bit of a cry to be honest” Jackson said, according to a press release. “I have been working my body hard, and I didn’t honestly know if it was going to hold up to my intense training regime, but it has and I’m feeling good.”
The 6-foot-5 Jackson, whose last major international tournament was the 2012 Olympics, retired in 2016 due to right knee and left Achilles injuries while bidding for a fifth Olympics. She gave birth to a son in 2017 and in 2018.
Jackson had no intentions of playing again competitively after having a partial replacement on her right knee and dealing with the ACL tear that was followed by a staph infection. She also acknowledges she had become reliant on painkillers, anti-inflammatories, sleeping pills and anti-depressants at the end of her playing career.
“I would take anything to get me out of bed in the morning,” Jackson told The Associated Press.
A few years later, she tried medical cannabis.
Jackson said she was part of a trial for medical cannabis 13 months ago and that it seemed to help. A few months later, after being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, she started working out again to try and get in basketball shape — she had gained nearly 50 pounds since retiring.
She was working out with the coach of her hometown Australian Basketball league team. Matt Paps, the coach of the Albury team, said to her that he’d love to have her come back and play. She obliged this spring.
Jackson was the 2001 WNBA No. 1 overall draft pick, won three WNBA MVPs with the Seattle Storm and four Olympic medals for Australia, all silver or bronze after defeats to the U.S. in the medal rounds.
She first played for the Opals, Australia’s national team, in 1997.
Without Jackson, Australia lost in the Olympic quarterfinals in Rio and Tokyo. It won silver and bronze at the last two World Cups.
The U.S. roster for worlds has not been announced. It is not expected to include Jackson’s longtime Seattle Storm teammate Sue Bird, who is retiring from the WNBA.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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❤️ The beautiful moment Sandy Brondello told Lauren Jackson that she will be heading to the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup with team Australia.
(Courtesy Basketball Australia) pic.twitter.com/n1GPG1Tpk8
— ABC SPORT (@abcsport) August 9, 2022