FIBA World Cup: Lauren Jackson ‘tried to get’ Sue Bird to play

Lauren Jackson hugs Sue Bird in August after one of Bird's final games for the Storm before her retirement. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Australian national basketball team star Lauren Jackson tried to convince Sue Bird to make one last appearance at the FIBA World Cup, but she couldn’t lure her former Seattle Storm teammate to Sydney.

“I tried to get her to get here, I tried to get her to come,” Jackson said.

A three-time WNBA MVP for the Storm, Jackson, 41, came out of retirement earlier this year in her home country and is playing at her first World Cup since 2010.

Bird, also 41, retired from the WNBA after the Storm’s playoff exit in September. Her retirement brought a wave of fanfare, as many attribute the rise of women’s basketball to players like Bird, who won a record five Olympic gold medals with Team USA and four World Championship medals.

Jackson played with Bird in Seattle from 2002 to 2012, winning two WNBA championships. Jackson had her No. 15 retired by the Storm in 2015.

“Sue has just been instrumental. What is basketball without Sue Bird? I don’t know,” Jackson said. “I don’t know what it looks like. It’ll be interesting to see how Team USA goes without her at the head of things.”

This year will be Team USA’s first in more than two decades without either Bird or Diana Taurasi on the court. Sylvia Fowles and Tina Charles also will be absent, having either retired or moved on from Team USA.

In their places, players including Sabrina Ionescu and Kahleah Copper have earned their first major international nods. WNBA rookie Shakira Austin also has made the squad.

Still, for Jackson, who is one of the most seasoned players at the tournament, it will be weird to play without Bird.

“Sue has been great for me, talking me through stuff and working with me on stuff,” she said. “I wish she was here. But it’s her time to shine now and go and do whatever she wants with her life.”