The news that Lauren Jackson is likely done with the WNBL for good makes me tremendously sad, because it means she’s not likely to play in the WNBA any longer, nor participate in this year’s Olympic Games. She is only 34 years old.
Jackson is a tremendous player who will always be somewhat of an enigma because her career has been cut short by injury. She hasn’t played in the WNBA since 2011, and missed numerous games during her 11-year career in the league. Yet, despite playing in only 317 contests, Jackson still ranks sixth in all-time points leaders and eighth in rebounds. To think about what she could have been without injury is mind-boggling. She might have been the greatest pro player of all time.
I feel the same way about Chamique Holdsclaw and Deanna Nolan in that we will never see the totality of their potential greatness. Holdsclaw was in and out of the WNBA as she battled depression, and played in only 279 games. But she is still 16th in scoring and 14th in rebounds on the all-time lists. Both Jackson and Holdsclaw did things on the court that made spectator’s eyes pop out. Their silkiness, their skills, their abilities to make what they did look easy at times, made them exciting to watch.
Deanna Nolan is remembered by many, many a fan for her ball handling as a guard, her crafty slashes to the rack and her ability to create any shot she wanted. She took herself out of the league to play overseas, with her final WNBA game tally at 293. But like Jackson and Holdsclaw, Nolan is still in the top ranks in a few stats categories.
I don’t believe in “woulda, coulda,” but I definitely can’t help but wonder what pro basketball life would be right now if those three athletes had full careers in the WNBA. It gives me chills. But ultimately, I just feel wistful.