Lauren Jackson’s father played basketball for Australia. So did her mother.
Growing up around the sport and playing from an early age, she seemed destined to follow in the footsteps of her parents.
But at 12, Jackson’s performance at a Country Cup suggested that maybe she didn’t want that life. Her parents twigged and told her she didn’t have to keep playing.
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Jackson’s response should go down in the folklore of Australian sport, given she is arguably the best basketballer the nation has ever produced.
She went to her room, sat at her computer, and – as the story goes – typed: “From this day on, nothing will stand in my way.”
It’s the sort of declaration that is not remotely surprising given the passion, spirit and determination that Jackson played with.
The 34-year-old called time on her glittering career on Thursday, cruelly just over four months away from the start of the 2016 Olympic Games.
An appearance in Rio de Janeiro would have been Jackson’s fifth at an Olympics, a fitting way to bow out on the big stage, where she always shone brightest.
“I’m announcing my retirement from the love of my life, basketball,” Jackson said.
“I truly believe under Choc’s (Opals coach Brendan Joyce) leadership they will achieve amazing things in Rio and it breaks my heart that I can’t be there.
“But I will be supporting them in spirit and I know they are going to get gold.”
‘Her deeds are truly heroic’
Andrew Gaze, widely considered as Australia’s greatest men’s basketballer, said he remembers the first time he saw Jackson play.
“I remember there was this buzz in the basketball community about this potential superstar we had on our hands,” he told The New Daily.
“And everyone quickly realised that she was going to be a global phenomenon.
“What stood out at first was her skill set – for a girl her size, at 195cm, she could play any position.
“Then you couldn’t help but notice this fierce determination and competitiveness she had.”
Gaze hailed Jackson’s ability to stand up when it counted and said he was inspired by her in the latter stages of his playing days.
“She’ll be most remembered for guiding Australia to international glory,” he said.
“We won a gold medal at the 2006 World Championships and I still don’t think people understand how good that is.
“Three silver medals and one bronze in her Olympic campaigns – she was the superstar in that.
“On the big stage, she always delivered. Many people tagged her as the best player in the world and that’s a view that is easily justifiable.
“As a player, seeing her performance was inspirational. I was at the end of my career when she was at her peak – but the way she could lead and have an impact was inspiring.”
Gaze also credits Jackson – a flag bearer at the 2012 London Olympics – in having a ‘huge role’ in the sport’s booming popularity in Australia.
‘Lauren is one of the greats of all time’
Opals coach Brendan Joyce said Jackson would be sorely missed in Brazil later this year.
“We were fortunate last night (Wednesday) to celebrate Lauren’s career,” he said.
“We talked about her achievements. What a legacy. Lauren is one of the greats of all time – in any sport.”