When WNBA star Lauren Jackson decided to pose nude for an Australian photography book, she told only a handful of people. She called her family, talked to her Seattle Storm coach and confided in teammates.
"I kept it quiet," said Jackson, who averages 19 points for the Storm this season. "I didn't want many people to know about it."
Instead, Jackson has become known for it. In the week since Black + White hit the shelves worldwide, Jackson has received nearly as much attention as she did when she became the WNBA's most valuable player last season. The book features artistic photos of 35 Australian athletes scheduled to compete at the Olympic Games in Athens, but Jackson's involvement has drawn the most attention.
Since the book came out, WNBA fans have questioned Jackson's merit as an athlete and a role model, she said.
"I didn't think it would be that big of a deal," Jackson said. "I was kind of shocked, actually. I guess I was naive in thinking that people would react differently. I should have been prepared for this, but I wasn't."
Though Jackson made her decision independent of the WNBA, she touched on an issue familiar to the league. In 2001, www.Playboy.com launched a "Sexiest Babe of the WNBA Poll." While no player ended up posing for Playboy, Lisa Harrison -- then of the Phoenix Mercury -- considered it, sparking league-wide debate.
"What Lauren did seems somewhat different from something like Playboy," said WNBA President Val Ackerman. "As we understand it, this book celebrates a multitude of athletes, and it was an honor for her to be included. She did it herself. It didn't involve the WNBA."
Still, it has created buzz around the league. Talk-show hosts and newspaper columnists now posit a familiar question: Would it be okay for a WNBA player to pose in Playboy?
"Absolutely," Jackson said. "If they asked me [to pose], I don't know what I'd do. I'd cross that bridge when I came to it. But I definitely wouldn't say no right away."
-- Eli Saslow