SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian basketball great Lauren Jackson announced her retirement on Thursday after doctors said her battered knees were not up to the rigors of contesting for a fifth Olympic medal in Rio de Janeiro this year.
The 34-year-old power forward, who won two Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) championships with the Seattle Storm, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in December with her knee joint later becoming infected.
Doctors told her last week she would not make the Aug. 5-21 Games in Brazil and had advised her to undergo reconstruction surgery, meaning a 14th operation on her knees and no chance of adding to her three Olympic silvers and one bronze.
“I think it was a bit of a shock to hear that... but the writing was on the wall,” Jackson told reporters in Canberra on Thursday, flanked by her international team mates and coach.
”I knew it wasn’t going to get better but I wanted it to so badly.
“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 (Australia national team).”
Jackson, who helped the Opals win the 2006 world championships, carried the Australian flag during the opening ceremony at the 2012 London Games, reflecting her position as a leading light for the sport.
The 196 cm (6ft-5in) New South Wales native was first called up to the Australian team when she was 16 and went on to become one of the greats of the game.
She won three Most Valuable Player Awards in her 12 seasons in America and remains the only foreigner to claim the prize.
She also played for clubs in Russia, China, Spain, South Korea and at home in a standout career.
“For sure she’d be missed,” Opals skipper Penny Taylor said earlier this week.
“She is iconic for Australian sport, let alone basketball. But for basketball, not many, if any, have done what she has done.”
Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by John O'Brien