Mag issue features athletes competing in Athens

Updated: July 22, 2004, 10:42 AM ET
Associated Press

SEATTLE -- WNBA Most Valuable Player Lauren Jackson posed nude in an Australian magazine that features Olympic athletes who will compete in Athens.

The Seattle Storm forward participated in a seven-hour photo shoot last offseason in Sydney. The publication, called Black + White, includes 35 athletes and is expected to hit international newsstands next week.

Lauren Jackson
APLauren Jackson, right, appears on the cover of the Athens tribute issue of "Black + White."

Jackson, 23, appears on the cover of the Athens tribute issue, an artistic publication that also did pre-Olympic editions with Australian athletes in 1996 and 2000.

"I did it because it is such a prestigious magazine in Australia," Jackson said before Friday night's game at Houston. "I am really proud to be a part of it. I don't think it should be looked upon badly, that's for sure."

The magazine is expected to be on sale in the Seattle area Tuesday.

"We work so hard, as athletes, on making our bodies look great and to be in the best possible shape that we can be," Jackson said. "I am proud of my body at this stage and I know in 20 years it's not going to be the same. But right now I am really happy about it.

"My mom and dad loved it."

Storm spokeswoman Valerie O'Neil said team officials supported Jackson in the project, done independently of the WNBA. O'Neil emphasized the context, saying it is considered an honor in Australia to appear in the magazine.

"In the States, when we think of a project like this, it usually doesn't have the same connotation," O'Neil said.

Jackson's teammates and coach had no problems with the photos.

"I think it is very well done," Storm coach Anne Donovan said. "I think culturally in the U.S. it's something that is always going to get a lot of hype here. There will be a lot of talk about this and there will be for quite awhile."

The Storm managed a public relations flap last summer when standout guard Sue Bird backed out of a wager with a Seattle sports talk radio host. She had agreed to let the man spank her on the air if she lost the bet.

Bird quickly apologized, saying she had hoped to boost interest in the WNBA but failed to consider the specter of battered women.

Bird said she thought Jackson's photos were tastefully done.

"I saw her pictures and I think she looks great," Bird said. "She did it for good reasons and hopefully this will not turn into a negative thing. "

After the Olympics, the magazine photos will be auctioned off to benefit charities. Jackson said she doesn't consider the project demeaning to women because it includes male Australian athletes.

Jackson was voted league MVP last season after averaging 21.2 points and 9.3 rebounds, both career highs. She became the first international player and the youngest to win the award.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press