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Basketball legend Lauren Jackson returns from retirement for Albury-Wodonga in NBL1

Lauren Jackson had a long, distinguished career in the WNBA, WNBL and the Opals — now she is back playing in Albury-Wodonga. (Getty Images: Stefan Postles/File)

Australian basketball legend Lauren Jackson has made a remarkable comeback from retirement at the age of 40, making her mark immediately while playing for her hometown Albury-Wodonga Bandits in the semi-professional NBL1 competition.

Six years after the Opals and WNBA star retired from the game due to chronic knee injuries — and a quarter of a century after her debut for the AIS team in the WNBL — in February this year Jackson announced her decision to play again.

When her return was announced, Albury-Wodonga Bandits president Luke Smith was quoted saying it was an honour to be able to welcome Jackson home.

"Our young players are going to have a massive opportunity to play and train with arguably the world’s best-ever female basketball player," Smith said.

"It’s huge for them. It’s huge for every kid and it’s huge for every basketball player in Albury-Wodonga."

Jackson's much-anticipated return came on Saturday night, as the Bandits defeated the Central Coast Crusaders 78-61.

Jackson appeared to move smoothly in her return game — she produced a trademark block to stifle one Central Coast attack, and quickly found her shooting range.

The Bandits were happy to feed her the ball, and Jackson paid them back with a return of 21 points — including five three-pointers, five rebounds and one block.

All told, Jackson played just 22 minutes in her return, but the signs were good.

In her career, the Australian has picked up almost every accolade there is, including five WNBL titles for the Canberra Capitals, two WNBA titles with the Seattle Storm, a world championship gold medal and four Olympic medals with the Opals.  

The FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup will be held in Australia from September 22 to October 1, 2022.

Australia is one of 12 competing countries, and the Opals will play Japan in three lead-up matches next month in Sydney and Newcastle.

It is too early to tell how far Jackson's comeback will go, but FIBA's Twitter account is already speculating about whether she might find her way to the tournament in Sydney. 

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