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Monday, December 29, 2003
"98 percent certain" of return
With one wave from her slick, black SUV on national television, Storm forward Lauren Jackson became the biggest poppy in Australia. The "female Michael Jordan" they called her in all the papers after she won the 2003 WNBA Most Valuable Player award, which came with the car and a $25,000 check.
Jackson, a 6-foot-5 power inside, just blushes.
Playing on legs with shins that were beginning to split like eggshells, Jackson was simply accomplishing a few goals she set in training camp. And with a new coach in Anne Donovan, a 6-8 Olympian who understood where Jackson was coming from, the path was almost as elementary as following the yellow brick road.
The 22-year-old Australian took over the American league to become its youngest and first international MVP. Jackson also won the WNBA scoring title, averaging 21.2 points, leading the Storm to an 18-16 record.
If it weren't for one regrettable week in August when Seattle lost five consecutive games by five points or less to drop out of postseason contention, Jackson might have had a championship to gab about to her "mates" back home.
Instead, there are the cluster of records she set or tied, such as the WNBA-tying seven consecutive double-doubles and league's fifth 20-20 game of all-time (23 points and 20 rebounds, a franchise record). Or how she was a named a starter in her third All-Star appearance and was a three-time player of the week.
The question now, however, isn't how she'll repeat. It's whether she'll come back at all.
An Olympian, Jackson was pressured by her national team to train with them for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Her coach has granted her permission to return for the WNBA season, which will break for the Games, acknowledging that's where Jackson will receive the most competition. And Jackson said she's 98 percent certain she'll return. She even has a home in Queen Anne to which she must tend.
But add her worsening stress fractures, which caused Jackson to miss a month of her Australian basketball season, and the concern increases.
Today, Jackson is back playing with the Canberra Capitals.
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