SEATTLE (AP) — Lauren Jackson would have loved nothing more than a chance to don her Seattle Storm uniform and play one more time in front of the team's vocal fans.
"If I could, I would. But actually, I don't have a knee anymore," she said with a smile at the end of a media roundtable session with longtime teammate Sue Bird. "It'd be almost impossible."
Instead, the Australian superstar and four-time Olympian settled for being honored and cheered loudly by those fans in KeyArena on Friday night as the team formally retired her uniform after an 80-51 rout of the Washington Mystics.
Jackson's No. 15 jersey, the first number retired in the team's 16-year history, was unveiled in the arena's rafters, next to the two banners signifying the WNBA championships she helped win in 2004 and 2010.
It was then that the reality - and finality - of stepping away from the game hit home with the 35-year-old Jackson.
"I think the closure in itself is a sad thing. But at least I got to come back," said Jackson, who hadn't been in Seattle since playing her final game in the 2012 WNBA playoffs against Minnesota. "It doesn't feel like it has been four years. I wasn't sure I was going to get to get back here. But having the opportunity to come back and retire here is probably the most important thing I've ever done."
Jackson was introduced as a ceremonial sixth starter before the game, and threw several of her basketball shoes into the stands at halftime.
"I didn't realize how much I missed (Seattle) until I got back in," Jackson said. "I did grow up here. I was a little teenager when I got here."
Although she didn't play in the WNBA after 2012, Jackson did continue playing overseas. But having dealt with ankle, shin, and back injuries at various points of her career, Jackson announced in a tweet on March 30 that she was calling it quits.
The 6-foot-6 Jackson was 19 when she came to Seattle with the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2001 after the Storm went just 6-26 as an expansion team in 2000. During her 12-year career, she scored a team-leading 6,007 points, a total that ranks No. 7 on the WNBA's career list. She also ranks No. 3 in the league for career blocked shots (586) and No. 9 in rebounds (2,447).
Jackson was a three-time MVP and named to the WNBA's All-Decade team in 2006 as one of the league's top 10 players. Along with four Olympics for the Australian national team (three silver medals and one bronze), she played in three World Championships, helping the Opals win gold in 2006.