October 2, 2022
What led to Lauren Jackson’s 30-point outburst in bronze medal game
Australian Hall of Famer leaves the court on her own terms
Australia might have had its heart broken in the FIBA World Cup semifinal, but there was no hangover in the bronze medal game. The Opals beat Canada on Saturday, 95-65, to secure third place, but that is not what the sellout crowd at the Sydney Super Dome will remember.
It was a chance to see Lauren Jackson looking like she did in her prime. The highest profile player Australia ever exported came off the bench and produced 30 points on 11-of-16 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds. It was a fairy tale ending for the 41-year-old who is already in the Naismith Hall of Fame. Injuries cut Jackson’s career short in her mid-30s, but now she owns the mental closure of exiting the game gracefully.
“I am a little bit blown away,” Jackson said. “We got the bronze medal and did it in front of our home crowd. This journey has been the most humbling and incredible journey of my life. It gives me an opportunity to play the sport I love in front of Australia again. To say goodbye this way, I could not have imagined it.”
Jackson’s previous high scoring mark in the event was 12 points in the quarterfinal win over Belgium. One day earlier, she only saw two minutes of playing time, and her two points came from the free throw line. China would win 61-59 after Ezi Magbegor missed the game tyer at the buzzer.
“I wasn’t even thinking about it,” Jackson said of scoring during the bronze medal game. “I was so emotional from the beginning of the match, I just wanted to win and be a part of that. I wanted to win for (coach) Sandy (Brondello), as well. It was a team effort. Our girls came out and fought every possession.”
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Jackson said she wasn’t certain that Sandy Brondello would select her for the team. The two were teammates on Olympic silver medal-winning groups at Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004. They also won bronze medals at the 1998 and 2002 World Cups together.
“She’s a pretty humble superstar, isn’t she?” Brondello said. “To go out, and who scores 30 points? I don’t think I ever have. It was a great group effort, but Lauren, I am very proud of her. We moved her to the block a little more. I knew that was going to be the best opportunity for her. We knew they had some inside presence, but I didn’t think we were getting in as much until Lauren changed the game.”
Australia’s Steph Talbot was named to the World Cup All-Star Five. Selecting which Opal would be named to the team was no easy choice from the balanced roster. The seven top scorers averaged between eight and 11 points per game, including Jackson with nine.
“When I came to the team, they were doing a lot of work on the culture,” Jackson added. “Every one of them has incredible character, and I have never been on a team that has been so connected. Our Opals are in great hands moving forward.”
Jackson’s five World Cup appearances touch on four different decades, with the pinnacle coming with the gold medal in 2006. Her 43rd career World Cup game on Friday actually tied her with Brazil’s Janeth Arcain for the most in history. She also earned three silver medals and a bronze in four Olympics from 2000 to 2012. In addition, Jackson was a three-time WNBA MVP and two-time champion with the Seattle Storm, last appearing in 2012.
The final game for Jackson continues a parade of emotional goodbyes for some of sports’ all-time greats. Her longtime teammate in Seattle, Sue Bird, retired after the WNBA semifinals. Sylvia Fowles, who posted up against Jackson in the Beijing Olympic final as well as the London Olympic semifinal, hang up her sneakers, too. Allyson Felix, Serena Williams and Roger Federer all walked off into the sunset, and Albert Pujols’ journey will soon end, as well.
Now that her playing days are over, Jackson said she is excited to go back to work her day job with Basketball Australia in charge of women’s and girls strategy. She also said she wants to spend more time with her two young children.
“Wearing the green and gold, nothing has been as important to me in my career,” Jackson concluded.
Written by Scott Mammoser
Scott Mammoser has covered major international events for FIBA, World Athletics and the International Skating Union. He has been to six Olympics and traveled to more than 90 countries.