Jackson will have her jersey number retired during a postgame ceremony Friday night at KeyArena. The three-time WNBA MVP won 15 championships and four Olympic medals, spanning three continents and four countries. She also is a great benchmark for Storm rookie Breanna Stewart.
Allow me to tell you a tale about Lauren Jackson.
I realize “you” will be interpreted as the thousands who will gather at KeyArena on Friday night for the retirement ceremony to retire Jackson’s No. 15 Storm jersey. But really I mean you, Breanna Stewart.
Other Seattle legends
The Storm will retire Lauren Jackson’s jersey Friday. Here are other Seattle pro athletes who have been similarly honored:
80, Steve Largent (1995): Had most career receptions, receiving yards and TD catches when he retired.
71, Walter Jones (2010): Six-time All-Pro selection and nine-time Pro Bowler.
96, Cortez Kennedy (2012): NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1992.
19, Lenny Wilkens (1979): All-Star Game MVP as player, NBA champion as coach.
32, Fred Brown (1986): Retired as franchise’s all-time leader in scoring (14,018 points) and steals (1,149).
43, Jack Sikma (1992): Averaged 17.0 rebounds in 1979 NBA Finals to help win title.
10, Nate McMillan (1999): Appeared in 98 playoff games, most in franchise history.
1, Gus Williams (2004): Dubbed “The Wizard,” averaged 26.6 points during 1979 title run.
24, Spencer Haywood (2007): All-NBA first-team selection in 1972 and ‘73.
Note: The Mariners will retire Ken Griffey Jr.’s number in August.
In researching your path to Seattle, I read you don’t like it when your game is likened to NBA star Kevin Durant’s, as if there aren’t any female basketball players with your stature and versatility to measure your talent and potential.
Exactly. But your list of preferred comparisons — Elena Delle Donne and Candace Parker — to players who can shoot three-pointers with the ease of layups, block shots and dribble the ball to run an offense like point guards, also is shortsighted.
Your benchmark is Lauren Jackson.
I met her at Cyclops Cafe and Lounge in Belltown the summer of 2001. Lauren, then 19, picked the spot. She liked the eclectic vibe, artwork and red vinyl seats.
I didn’t know much about women’s basketball. In a published 2002 WNBA mock draft, my selection for the Storm with the No. 1 overall pick was Stacey Dales over Sue Bird.
But I know champions. Slouched in a booth with a sweet disposition and auburn hair — one of three different dyes Lauren would wear in her 12-year Storm career — I could tell she was one.
Lauren told me she would wear jersey No. 15 in honor of her mother, who also played for the Australian national team. A 6-foot-6 center, Lauren led the country to an Olympic silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Games.
There was a gleam in her eye when she spoke about basketball. It morphed to fire when she stepped on the court — including practice. However, Lauren was raw and without a point guard who could keep up, Sonja Henning offering veteran wisdom instead.
The swagger of a champion clicked on Oct. 5, 2004 in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals at KeyArena. It forever will be my most memorable Storm game.
Lauren Jackson by the numbers
2: WNBA championships (2004, 2010)
3: League MVP awards (2003, 2007, 2010) and scoring titles (2003, 2004, 2007)
7: All-Star selections (2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009)
18.9: Career scoring average
7.7: Career rebounding average
I put my pen down and just watched as Lauren hit all five of her three-pointers in the second half of an 82-62 win against Sacramento. After one three she turned to Sue, then a third-year point guard in the league, and giggled.
Lauren won her first WNBA MVP award in 2003 but wasn’t given the usual respect because the Storm missed the playoffs. The 2004 postseason signified the start of Lauren’s reign. She averaged 19.6 points and 7.5 rebounds in leading the Storm to its first WNBA championship.
In 2007, once then-coach Anne Donovan taught Lauren better defensive skills to match her already superior offensive talents, Lauren had the most dominant season in WNBA history. She won a second MVP Award, was the Defensive Player of the Year and finished the regular season as the scoring (23.8 points) and rebounding (9.7) champion.
As a redhead in 2010, Jackson won a record-tying third MVP, and the Storm went 17-0 at home while averaging 8,322 in attendance. It carried to the postseason, as Seattle swept the three rounds 7-0 behind Lauren’s 21.6 points (on 46.5 percent shooting) and 9.6 rebounds per game. She was the Finals MVP.
But Lauren didn’t just dominate the WNBA. Following her full basketball career can double as a geography lesson. She has won 15 championships and four Olympic medals, spanning three continents and four countries.
All while wearing jersey No. 15.
Lauren’s tale isn’t just about basketball, however. She partied as hard as she played, making Green Lake’s Kangaroo & Kiwi bar a regular postgame hangout for Storm fans.
Lauren also was as caring as she was foul-mouthed. And she didn’t allow any (expletive) from anyone.
In 2002, I arrived at Storm practice with the remnants of a black eye and tried to brush it off when interviewing Lauren about something she didn’t let me finish. She starting talking about a woman who was in an abusive relationship and imparted some empowering words.
Later, Lauren said being an advocate and activist in equality and preventing domestic violence were passions of hers. She has worked with Australia’s Rape and Domestic Violence Services since 2011.
She was everything you’d want in a franchise’s first star. If it weren’t for the endless injuries there would be even more accolades. Instead there was a bitter departure.
Lauren’s last game at KeyArena was a 2012 opening-round playoff win against Minnesota in double-overtime. My last image was of her beaming smile as she tossed her men’s size-12 game sneakers to a fan behind press row.
But Lauren’s last play was a missed jumper at the buzzer in Minnesota. She later regretted returning from the 2012 London Games to play in 12 WNBA games that season, because the decision delayed surgery to repair a torn right labrum.
She missed the 2013 WNBA season and after suffering a knee injury in 2014 while playing in China, Lauren decided to forgo the final year of her WNBA contract to focus on a possible fifth Olympic appearance. Given the concessions the Storm made to allow her to play for her national team in 2008 and 2012, many felt Lauren owed Seattle a final run.
It was hard for many “StormCrazies” to accept that her first loyalty was to Australia, even though she is Australian.
Really, they just wanted Lauren back, again, for a proper send-off. That moment will come Friday, when she will be at KeyArena to see her jersey placed alongside the Storm’s two championship banners in the rafters.
The Storm gathered multiple luminaries to share their stories of Lauren’s legacy. And Breanna, you’ll find that the tales all end the with the same realization as mine:
There will never be another No. 15.