This story on No. 13 athlete Lauren Jackson appears in the 20th anniversary issue of ESPN The Magazine. Subscribe today!
The countdown begins, whether we're ready or not. It's July 2016, and your No. 15 is about to be the first to ascend the rafters of KeyArena. Seattle is a cyclone --"LJ, LJ, LJ," a roar from the rafters to courtside, your head hanging toward your team, your crew, the people who have carried you.
You and Sue Bird hold on to each other, the most dynamic of duos. Bird calls you the best of basketball. You both start wiping tears with your shirtsleeves, and I find myself weeping too. I want you running plays, taking assists and shouting to your teammates, "Pass me the f---ing ball." I want to hear you curse, want to see you be a woman who knows what she wants and has all the ways to get it. I want to see you rule the game. Just one more time.
Dick Fain, voice of Storm basketball, invites the crowd to count down from 15. Lights up: 14, 13, 12 ... Your fans break loose, their bodies surging and flowing with such love, love. How they float up with you. This is what it means to be a Storm -- transforming the atmosphere around you. 11, 10, 9 ... Lauren Jackson, you are revelatory to watch, your body a celebration of hustle. 8, 7, 6 ... You were never silent, using your voice for victims of domestic violence and gender equality. That's the kind of woman I want my daughters to model. Be loud, say it clear, be a rebel. 5, 4, 3, 2 ... Your legacy about to be revealed.
I see you coaching future ballers with the Melbourne Boomers and guiding your son Harry, who won't be able to see you sail and spin, sinking 3s with ease in the WNBA, but will have your teammates to tell the best tales. They'll tell him of your shyness coupled with your assertiveness, how your yelling at them was a rite of passage. They will set your record straight.
At 1, the black curtain drops. The crowd is on its feet. You let the fans see you -- let them see you become a sensation. My daughters in the crowd, along with all the children who will stretch their necks to catch a glimpse of you in KeyArena. At 6-foot-6, you are a witness to everything: rising, rising, rising.
Ellen Hagan is the author of two collections of poetry and the co-author of the forthcoming young adult book "Write Like a Girl."