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August 2016
31/03/2016
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Legendary Jackson calls time on stellar career

CANBERRA (2016 Rio Olympics) - Universally renowned as one of women's basketball's all-time greats and an iconic Australian athlete, four-time Olympian Lauren Jackson won't get to step out in Rio for a fairytale swansong after announcing her retirement from the game.

Speaking at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) where her Opals team-mates are continuing preparations for Brazil, the 34-year-old confirmed a knee injury was forcing the curtain to fall on a stunning career which spanned two illustrious decades.

"The doctors said there's no way you'll play in Rio on that knee and it was a shock to hear that and I don't think anyone expected it," stated an emotional Jackson.

In the back of the mind I knew it wasn't going to get better, but when the doctor said that, I started crying. It breaks my heart I'm not going to Rio, but I know the Opals will win. - Jackson

"This hurts right now and I'm not going out the way I want to, with my career being cut short. To say goodbye to my love, what was my identity, this hurts a lot.

"A few tears have been shed and I feel real empty right now, but I'm excited for the next chapter,” she added.

Despite her absence at this summer's Games, Jackson was quick to throw her weight behind her team-mates and their pursuit of an elusive Olympic title.

"I truly believe under Choc's [Brendan Joyce] leadership, they will achieve amazing things in Rio and I will be supporting them in spirit.

The one thing I never got to do was win Olympic gold, but I believe these girls can do it. I fully believe this Opals team is more than capable of winning gold - they've got the leadership, they've got the coach and they've got the players. - Jackson

"Penny [Taylor] is going to lead the way and Liz [Cambage] could be the best girl there ever was, and she might be.

WATCH | Go one-on-one with Lauren Jackson as she reflects on her international career and time with the AIS. #GoOpals

Posted by Basketball Australia on Thursday, 31 March 2016

Jackson has been the driving force behind the Opals becoming a world power in the women's game - as evidenced by her four Olympic podium finishes and an array of individual accolades and team success around the globe at both international and club level.

Making the international U20s side as a 14-year old, she was first called up to the Opals squad when she was just 16.

"When I first saw Lauren and what she could do on the basketball court, I knew she was someone special," recalled ex-Opals head coach and current Basketball Australia (BA) High Performance General Manager, Jan Stirling.

"Throughout all of her accomplishments she has remained humble and through a 19-year commitment to the Opals, she never missed a major event."

Jackson stepped out at the 1998 FIBA Women's World Championship to help Australia finish third and then represented her country at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney where she dazzled with a 20 point and 13 double-double against the USA in the Gold Medal Game.

That was followed by a third-place finish at the 2002 FIBA Women's World Championship and Jackson's stellar averages of 22.9 points and 10 rebounds then fired Australia back into the 2004 Olympic Final in Athens.

She then went one step further at the 2006 Commonwealth Games by leading her team to the title in front of a raucous crowd in Melbourne and it proved to be the best year of her career when she also helped the Opals to a maiden success at the 2006 FIBA Women's World Championship.

Lauren Jackson helped Australia win a first-ever world title at the 2006 FIBA Women's World Championship

"That was an unbelievable time," enthused Jackson, when reflecting on her career highlights. "Penny [Taylor] got MVP of the tournament and I was top scorer and we won the World Championship. It's one thing I'll hold in my heart so dear."

Two years later in Beijing, Jackson and the Opals reached a third straight Olympic Final and at London 2012, she carried her nation to victory in the Third-Place Game - having also been Australia's flag bearer during the Opening Ceremony.

"Lauren leaves behind a legacy that future generations of Opals as well as all young basketballers can look up to," added Basketball Australia CEO, Anthony Moore.

"Her commitment to the Australian Opals and her work ethic should be honoured as well as her tireless efforts both on and off the court in the promotion of basketball.

"Throughout the USA, Europe, Asia and of course Australia, Lauren has left a lasting impression on everyone that saw her play and we are privileged to have witnessed her journey."

Aside from an incredible national team career with the Opals, Jackson made a sizeable splash in the WNBA, making the first of seven All-Star teams during her rookie year. In 2003, her average of 21.2 points per game helped her become the first non-American to be named the league's MVP and also the youngest player to earn the honour. She won the WNBA Championship the following year and was assured a place in WNBA history with a second MVP award in 2007, before she re-wrote the history books in 2010 with a third MVP award, a second Championship and a Finals MVP accolade.

Jackson also claimed an impressive Euroleague Women title treble, as well as attaining club success in Korea.

FIBA