UPDATE: Jackson’s point total off by one, statement from FIBA.
Lauren Jackson, a three-time WNBA MVP, needs 39 points to become the all-time leading scorer in Olympic women’s basketball history. She scored 18 points with eight rebounds to help her native Australia defeat Brazil 67-61 on Wednesday.
It’s been reported globally that Jackson has already set the mark, surpassing American four-time gold medalist Lisa Leslie’s mark of 488 points. But further research shows former Houston Comets star Janeth Arcain actually scored a total of 535 points during her Olympic reign from 1992-2004. The native Brazilian won one silver and one bronze medal during that period.
Research and a source with USA Basketball said the global governing agency for basketball, FIBA, doesn’t compile all-time records for women’s basketball. The site does have individual results for games, however. That math also showed Arcain with 535 all-time Olympic points.
“Regarding the question of Lauren Jackson becoming the all-time women’s Olympic scoring record holder during Australia’s game with Brazil, FIBA can confirm that there was a duplicate of the Brazilian former player Janeth Arcain in FIBA’s database,” FIBA stated in a release after this blog entry posted. “Accordingly, Janeth Arcain Olympic points total is 535, making her the current all-time women’s Olympic scoring record holder. She leads Lauren Jackson, currently second with 497 points.”
Jackson, the Storm’s all-time leading scorer (4,103), theoretically has five games to reach the Olympic mark. Australia is 2-1 in pool play, the top four teams from the two divisions advancing to the knock-out medal round. The Opals are predicted to contend for a gold medal against Team USA, but the Aussies were upset by undefeated France on Monday.
The French (3-0) have secured a slot in the quarterfinal round along with fellow unbeaten USA, China and Russia. Australia plays Russia (3-0) on Friday.
“I didn’t know about that until a few minutes ago. I haven’t even thought about it. I guess it means I’m old,” Jackson told reporters in London, assuming Leslie’s 488-mark was the record. Jackson now has 497 all-time Olympic points. “It’s a great honor, but we’re really just trying to win games.”
A 6-foot-6 center, Jackson surpassed Leslie on a free throw in the second half of Wednesday’s win. The U.S. center, who beat Jackson for gold three times, was commentating the game for NBC and congratulated Jackson on the feat.
Leslie, who also rivaled with Jackson in the WNBA while playing for the Los Angeles Sparks, doesn’t believe any American player will claim the title. Team USA has developed so much depth in the past decade, winning 35 consecutive Olympic games, that players are encouraged to share the ball more than rely on one go-to scorer.
Even Jackson, 31, isn’t relied upon enough. The Opals had trouble getting her the ball against Brazil. Jackson either created her own shots or had put-backs and free throws to add to her tally.
Sheryl Swoopes follows Leslie for American all-time Olympic scoring at 274 points. She played in three Olympics from 1996-2004. Three-time Olympians Diana Taurasi (176) and Tamika Catchings (126) are the only active players among the top 11 scorers for Team USA.
“In terms of women’s basketball she’s iconic in our country,” Australia coach Carrie Graf told The Associated Press of Jackson, who was selected as the second basketball player ever from her country to be flag-bearer for the opening ceremony last week.
“For a small country like ours she continues to help put the Opals on the map,” Graf continued. “I think it’s fitting at this Olympics that as the flag bearer she gets the record.”
Jackson stated prior to the London Games that it would be her “last go-round” on the Olympic level. She’s slated to return to Seattle for the conclusion of the WNBA season beginning Aug. 16. She signed a lucrative deal to play three years for her hometown Canberra Capitals during the WNBA off-season and is on a five-year plan to possibly phase out of hoops all together, according to an interview with The Seattle Times in 2011.
“I’ve definitely loved. I’ve loved. I’ve been so fortunate. But it’s impossible to maintain anything, being a professional athlete, and being a woman, because you can’t settle down and have a family unless you’re willing to give up your career,” Jackson told The Daily Telegraph prior to the Olympics. “And I just can’t see myself giving up basketball until my body says, ‘All right, you’ve had enough’. But I try, I’m trying, I’m trying. That’s all I can say. Trying to maintain relationships is very difficult, but I’m trying.”
*PHOTO CREDIT: Lauren Jackson carries the Australian flag during the London Olympics opening ceremonies on July 27 by The Associated Press