Lauren Jackson was just six years old when she played her first game of competitive basketball for a local under-10 side in her hometown of Albury, New South Wales.
Unbeknown to those watching, this basketball prodigy was destined for greatness.
The first Australian player ever to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Jackson is regarded as one of the world’s best female basketballers of all time.
“It feels like a bit of a dream now, it really does,” Jackson said.
“I feel like a completely different person, which I am, but looking back I was so fortunate to have played basketball at that level and to have competed at such a high level for so long.”
A two-time WNBA champion with the Seattle Storm (2004 and 2010), three-time MVP (2003, 2007, 2010), seven-time WNBA All-Star and overall number-one pick in the 2001 draft, Jackson also won four Olympic medals (three silver and one bronze) and guided the Opals to a coveted World Cup victory in 2006.
But a degenerative knee injury cut her phenomenal career short, forcing her to retire in early 2016, denying Jackson what would have been a fifth Olympics in Rio.
No fairytale ending
“It didn’t end the way I wanted it [to],” she said.
“There were highs and some pretty big lows as well.”
Jackson underwent countless surgeries during her career and often resorted to painkillers.
Chronic, debilitating pain around her knee, hip and lower back continued to plague her after she retired.
“I’ve been open about my battle with prescription medication during my career and when I retired, I went off everything because I wanted to raise my kids and just be the very best version of myself.”
After consulting her GP, Jackson explored alternative treatments to pain and was prescribed medical cannabis.
“It’s been incredible,” she said.
“It’s helped me a lot and gotten me to the point where I’m able to train again and live a very active lifestyle with my two little boys.”
Jackson is part of a new Sport Advisory Board, run by Melbourne-based sports medicine company, Levin group, that develops pharmaceutical-grade medicinal cannabis for the treatment of chronic pain and concussion.
She hopes her personal experiences will help reduce the stigma associated with medicinal cannabis.
“It’s something that I personally believe in because of how my body has handled it,” she said.
“I just want to help get the message out there and hopefully help change people’s lives.”