NERVOUS. Emotional. Excited.
Basketball superstar Lauren Jackson was all these and more at the renaming of the Albury Sports Stadium in her honour on Saturday.
Before a crowd of more than 1000, the Australian Opals captain arrived at the ceremony in a black Mercedes-Benz convertible, driven by friend — and The Whitlams frontman — Tim Freedman.
Following comments by Albury mayor Alice Glachan, Basketball Australia chief Larry Sengstock and NSW Minister for Sport and Recreation Graham Annesley, Jackson unfurled a drape on new signage for the Lauren Jackson Sports Centre.
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She then led fans into the stadium where an interactive display celebrating her myriad awards, titles and achievements, was also unveiled.
Jackson said she couldn’t have asked for “a more perfect day.”
“I almost started crying, and I’m not much of a crier, so I was very emotional,” Jackson said.
“To have my family and friends and people I care about here and love the most, I feel honoured I got to celebrate with them and the people of Albury.
“I still can’t believe it, oh my gosh, it’s just total disbelief.
“I’m an Albury girl and I think the emotional part was seeing my family and friends here, the people who have supported me through thick and thin.
“I was thinking of my grandmother, who used to bring me to games when I was a kid. She’s passed away but she would have been completely over the moon; there’s just so many different factors that contributed to what has been the most perfect day.
“I’m still quite emotional about it.”
Jackson said the renaming was her ultimate career highlight, well ahead of the Opals’ world championship, her three Olympic silver medals or WNBL and WNBA titles.
“It’s No. 1 without even thinking about it,” Jackson said. “It’s way in front, being able to share it with Albury in front of my family and friends makes it just awesome, nothing tops this.
“Probably the only thing would be winning an Olympic gold medal in that stadium, with Albury hosting the Olympics, so nothing tops this.”
The three-time WNBA most valuable player heads to Spain this week to play for Ros Casares Valencia in the Liga Femenina de Baloncesto but said she wanted to see the stadium signage at night before she left.
“Off to Spain on Friday, I’ve got a lot on, so I’m a little sad that this is all over now,” Jackson said.
“Just the lead-up and build-up to it, but I really want to come back later and look at the sign all lit up, definitely.”