Basketball great Lauren Jackson, who played her entire 12-year career in the WNBA with the Storm, will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Jackson joins a star-studded 2021 class that includes 10-time NBA All-Star Paul Pierce, 11-time All-Star Chris Bosh, 2004 champion and four-time Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace, five-time All-Star Chris Webber and MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and champion Yolanda Griffith.
Bill Russell, the first Black NBA head coach, headlines a quartet of coaching HOF inductees that includes Jay Wright, a two-time national champion at Villanova, legendary NCAA and WNBA coach Marianne Stanley and Leta Andrews, the winningest coach in high school basketball history.
“To be recognized alongside such esteemed members of the basketball fraternity in the Class of 2021 is mind-blowing,” Jackson told Basketball Australia from her home in Albury, NSW. “Then the prospect of being inducted into the prestigious Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame with legends and pioneers of our sport is just surreal.
“Growing up I could only have dreamt of having the career that I have had, and I am thankful every day for the experiences and opportunities that basketball has given me. “To everyone who has played a role in my life and basketball career to date, all I can say is ‘thank you’ from the bottom of my heart — this Hall of Fame honor is as much yours as it is mine.”
Jackson’s inclusion into the Hall of Fame is something of a no-brainer considering the 40-year-old’s vast basketball achievements during a 20-year career that began when she was 16.
Taken No. 1 overall in the 2001 WNBA draft by the Storm, the 6-foot-5 forward is the most accomplished player in Australian basketball history.
In the WNBA, Jackson won three MVP awards (2003, ’07, ’10), a Finals MVP (2010) and a Defensive Player of the Year award (2007). The seven-time All-Star also led the league in scoring three times and ranks ninth on the all-time scoring list. She also led the WNBA in rebounding in 2007.
A member of the WNBA All-Decade Team announced in 2006, Jackson averaged 18.9 points and 7.7 rebounds in 317 games (all starts) with the Storm from 2001 to 2012.
Storm star Sue Bird, who played 10 years with Jackson in Seattle, credits her former teammate for revolutionizing the sport and creating a blueprint that’s followed by today’s WNBA standouts such as Breanna Stewart and Elena Delle Donne.
“Tina Thompson is arguably the first stretch four and I think Lauren is really the first stretch five,” said Bird on Saturday after the Storm’s season opener. “Just a player who totally changed how to play that position. A player who could hurt you from the outside. A player that demanded double teams on the block every single night. You don’t really see that often, a player who demands that (and) has the outside game as well to complement it. And of course what she did defensively.
“I can’t imagine a world in which she doesn’t get in (the hall of fame). Just super proud of her and happy for her.”
Jackson, whose No. 15 jersey was retired by the Storm, still holds numerous team records, including the most rebounds (2,447), blocks (586) and points in a game (47). She ranks second behind Bird on the team’s all-time scoring list with 6,006 points.
In Australia, Jackson won three straight Olympic silver medals (2000, ’04 and ’08) and a bronze in the 2012 Summer Games. She also claimed two consecutive World Championships bronze medals (1998 and ’02) before guiding Australia to a first ever gold medal in 2006 at the World Championships in Brazil.
Jackson began her professional career in 1997 in Australia’s Women’s National Basketball League where she won six WNBL championships and was a four-time WNBL MVP. She was also MVP of the Women’s Korea Basketball League in 2007.
Due to numerous surgeries on her right knee and other ailments including a left Achilles tendon and hip injuries, Jackson retired in 2016, four years after her final game with the Storm.
The Naismith Hall of Fame ceremony is scheduled to be held in September.