Australian legend, former WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson retires

Lauren Jackson Stefan Postles/Getty Images

Australia's greatest female basketballer, Lauren Jackson, has announced her immediate retirement from international competition, ending an illustrious career that saw her lead the Opals to four Olympic medals and star for Seattle Storm in the WNBA.

Jackson had been hoping to play at a fifth Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where she would have been seeking to add to her three silver and one bronze Olympic medals, but she was unable to prove her fitness following successive knee surgeries and complications.

The 34-year-old confirmed the news on Thursday at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, where her Opals teammates are attending their first pre-Olympic camp.

"It really is so surreal retiring here where it all began 19 years ago," Jackson said.

"Today I'm announcing my retirement from the love of my life, basketball.

"Two years ago I hurt my knee playing in China.

"It wasn't a terrible injury but it was enough - I pulled my meniscus out of the root of my bone.

"I didn't think it was a big deal, nobody did.

"My knee ended up degenerating really really fast, I got arthritis pretty quickly and since then I've had multiple surgeries."

Seattle Storm, for whom Jackson played in the WNBA for 12 years, winning two championships and three MVP awards, recognised her "for all that she has meant to our organisation".

"Her presence and prowess are irreplaceable. She is one of the greatest players in the game of basketball and we are honored that she has called Seattle home for so many years. We send our best wishes as she moves on to new challenges in her life."

Jackson, who has previously described her spell with the Storm as "the best years in my life", said that she knew she needed an "absolute miracle" to make Brazil but she had never given up hope.

"I'm not going out the way I wanted to go, and I didn't want my career to be cut this short. But I'm grateful that I got to achieve what I did in this sport and all over the world - especially with the Opals.

"You guys, go for Gold in Rio. I know you can do it."

"To say goodbye to my love, what was my life, my identity, this hurts."

"A few tears have been shed and I feel kind of empty right now; really empty. But I guess ready and excited for the next chapter - whatever that may be."

Her only hope of returning to court in the future is to have a knee reconstruction, which she is considering.

"I don't want to walk with a limp for the rest of my life.

"I think it was a bit of a shock to hear that ... but the writing was on the wall.

"I knew it wasn't going to get better but I wanted it to so badly."

She almost retired in January after being hospitalised with an infection in her knee joint stemming from surgery. That same month she was released from her WNBL contract with the Canberra Capitals, having managed to play just six games in the past five years.

Jackson first played for the Opals in 1997, the team's youngest debutante at 16. She went on to help them win silver at the Sydney, Athens and Beijing Olympics, before claiming bronze at London - where she was also Australia's flagbearer at the opening ceremony.

"When I first saw Lauren and what she could do on the basketball court, I knew she was someone special," former Opals head coach and current Basketball Australia High Performance general manager, Jan Stirling said.

"Throughout all of her accomplishments she has remained humble and through a 19-year commitment to the Opals, she never missed a major event."

Jackson also starred in Europe and Korea.

She was named MVP of the Korean Women's Basketball League in 2007 while playing for Samsung Bichumi, and she won two EuroLeague Championships with Spartak Moscow Region and one with Ros Casares Valencia.

"Lauren leaves behind a legacy that future generations of Opals as well as all young basketballers can look up to," Basketball Australia chief executive Anthony Moore said.

"Her commitment to the Australian Opals and her work ethic should be honoured as well, as her tireless efforts both on and off the court in the promotion of basketball.

"Throughout the USA, Europe, Asia and of course Australia, Lauren has left a lasting impression on everyone that saw her play and we are privileged to have witnessed her journey."