Mag issue features athletes competing in Athens

SEATTLE -- WNBA Most Valuable Player Lauren Jackson posed
nude in an Australian magazine that features Olympic athletes who
will compete in Athens.

The Seattle Storm forward participated in a seven-hour photo
shoot last offseason in Sydney. The publication, called Black +
White, includes 35 athletes and is expected to hit international
newsstands next week.

Jackson, 23, appears on the cover of the Athens
tribute issue, an artistic publication that also did pre-Olympic
editions with Australian athletes in 1996 and 2000.

"I did it because it is such a prestigious magazine in
Australia," Jackson said before Friday night's game at Houston.
"I am really proud to be a part of it. I don't think it should be
looked upon badly, that's for sure."

The magazine is expected to be on sale in the Seattle area

"We work so hard, as athletes, on making our bodies look great
and to be in the best possible shape that we can be," Jackson
said. "I am proud of my body at this stage and I know in 20 years
it's not going to be the same. But right now I am really happy
about it.

"My mom and dad loved it."

Storm spokeswoman Valerie O'Neil said team officials supported
Jackson in the project, done independently of the WNBA. O'Neil
emphasized the context, saying it is considered an honor in
Australia to appear in the magazine.

"In the States, when we think of a project like this, it usually
doesn't have the same connotation," O'Neil said.

Jackson's teammates and coach had no problems with the photos.

"I think it is very well done," Storm coach Anne Donovan said.
"I think culturally in the U.S. it's something that is always going
to get a lot of hype here. There will be a lot of talk about this
and there will be for quite awhile."

The Storm managed a public relations flap last summer when
standout guard Sue Bird backed out of a wager with a Seattle sports
talk radio host. She had agreed to let the man spank her on the air
if she lost the bet.

Bird quickly apologized, saying she had hoped to boost interest
in the WNBA but failed to consider the specter of battered women.

Bird said she thought Jackson's photos were tastefully done.

"I saw her pictures and I think she looks great," Bird said.
"She did it for good reasons and hopefully this will not turn into
a negative thing. "

After the Olympics, the magazine photos will be auctioned off to
benefit charities. Jackson said she doesn't consider the project
demeaning to women because it includes male Australian athletes.

Jackson was voted league MVP last season after averaging 21.2
points and 9.3 rebounds, both career highs. She became the first
international player and the youngest to win the award.