The first time I met Lauren Jackson, she rejected me.
Seconds earlier, I had launched a fairly promising jumpshot from the free-throw line. Except, instead of that ball sailing towards the ring and landing safely with a swoosh of the net, it was crisply, deliberately, and brutally swotted into a group of parents on the sidelines.
It was an under 16’s State basketball game. The biggest block of my entire life. I should have been embarrassed or annoyed, but I was secretly honored.
THAT’S how good Lauren Jackson was. That having your arse handed to you on a platter by her, breathing the same air, treading the same floorboards, watching her gracefully beat you was everything.
She would have been just 15-years-old at that point and every stadium you walked into whispered her name. The “freak” from Albury. The teenage prodigy. The girl who could dunk.Whose parents were Olympians. Whose DNA was being stored and analysed by scientists in a bid to clone a master race of basketballers.
She was mentioned in the same sentences as Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. She scored a Nike clothing and shoe deal and we were awed – it was unprecedented for a female basketballer at the time. And while the rest of us 16-year-olds were getting our L plates and watching Dawson’s Creek and struggling with maths 1, she was a folding those long limbs into economy seats (with the mens team in Business class), to travel the world and play international basketball with women twice her age.
Today at 34 years old, the four-time Olympian, the woman that carried the flag in 2012, announced her retirement.
She has a knee injury that won’t quit, she’ll suffer from arthritis for the rest of her life and she’ll doubtless need an entire knee replacement sooner rather than later.