43 and free: Lauren Jackson balancing family and fitness in fifth Olympics bid

Knicks battle through injuries to beat Pacers, take 2-0 series lead (4:46)

Despite Jalen Brunson getting shaken up early and OG Anunoby leaving with an injury, the Knicks surge in the second half to defeat the Pacers in Game 2. (4:46)

Australia's greatest ever basketballer is about to embark on her biggest year yet.

With her Parisian dream alive, Lauren Jackson turns 43 this weekend and is on the verge of a fifth Olympics, 24 years after her Games debut in Sydney.

She will represent Australia in a tour of China later this month and is in sensational form as the NBL1's leading women's scorer in the country (33.1 points per game) and with back-to-back 40-point performances for her beloved Albury Wodonga who play in a stadium named after her.

Amongst her Olympic bid and recent WNBL championship with Southside, Jackson's remarkable comeback -- again -- from surgery on a ruptured Achillies and broken foot in February last year has at times been overlooked.

It took a heavy physical and mental toll but she feels like the fog has now lifted.

"I didn't think I'd be in a position to be back here again. It's been an exercise in being patient but also now I'm back here, I had a pretty good finals series and it's about seeing how my body can hold up with all the training and see where I can get to. I'm always curious," Jackson tells ESPN.

"Five months ago, I didn't think this was a possibility and I was so close to pulling the pin before qualifiers (February's Olympic Qualifiers in Brazil) on anything moving forward because after the injury I didn't think my body was healing or my confidence was coming back like it needed to. It's funny because once I hit the 12-month mark post-surgery, everything just started feeling better. I started feeling better, my timing was better and I wasn't restricted with what I could do.

"The last couple of years have been so eye opening for me on so many different levels and I think I took a lot of it for granted when I was younger, even when my knee got bad (which forced her into retirement in 2016) I just wonder if I had the mindset and attitude now towards training that I have now if I would have got through it. It's always a question and you never know.

"If I did, I wouldn't be here now or having the time of my life, having my children with me and living such a happy, fulfilled existence.

"It's one of those things where I just can't look back, you have to look forward and be grateful and I don't think I've been more grateful in my life."

Jackson headlined the Opals team which in February did qualify for the Paris Olympics and after Australia defeated Germany to punch their ticket she declared post-game 'I'm done'.

And in that moment, she was.

Jackson's place in that team was a last-minute decision, her children were upset about her going away and so was she as she missed eldest son Harry's birthday and her youngest Lenny's first day of school.

"I'd decided I wasn't going to play for Australia again and got a call up pretty quickly and I went home and had a chat with my parents, the kids and some people close to me for 24 hours and the boys definitely had a lot to say about it," she says.

"It (qualifiers) was only a week or two away at that point and I didn't have a lot of time to process it. I was shattered, the reality of being away from them again for that period of time hit me pretty hard and I had to work through all that."

Following the WNBL season, she returned home to her sanctuary in Albury, where she "feels really grounded", and was given time and space by Opals coach Sandy Brondello to consider her future.

"Sandy's been incredible she just said 'Look matey, you do what you need to do to make a decision and we'll support you no matter what. If you want to have a crack at it, absolutely, and if you don't, you don't'," she says.

"They gave me the time and I really appreciated it, it really gave me an opportunity to step back and think about it on my own terms, with the kids and the family and this is where we got to and everyone's on board

"I think we can make it work, I know the boys will be happier and I will be too."

Should Jackson make the final 12 it will be a team effort that allows her to represent Australia on the world's biggest sporting stage.

Her parents Maree and Gary, who both played basketball for Australia, will travel to France as will the father of her children Tim Freedman, the pianist and front man of ARIA-award winning Australian group The Whitlams, to care for the boys in a nearby hotel while Jackson joins the Opals in the Olympic Village.

"We've had a lot of conversations over the last month and a half. The boys are very young and especially for Lenny it's very hard to understand how big the Olympics are and if I get selected what it actually means. He's always on the go and I think he'd much prefer me watching him play basketball than him watching me play," Jackson explains.

"If I make the team, their dad is going to come along as well, they love him very much, and it will be huge for the kids to have him there and for my parents because it takes the pressure off them.

"The biggest thing for me is knowing the kids will have the support they need because it's going to be hard - I can't be there with them at night or see them straight away after the games so knowing they are going to be super happy and comfortable is the most important thing to me."

Jackson will celebrate her birthday on Saturday and then Mother's Day on Sunday with a double-header for Albury in Sydney, against Bankstown then Penrith, and with her boys by her side and with a few homemade cards.

She's looking forward to a special weekend and what her next lap of the sun might hold.

"The Olympics is every athlete's pinnacle and this is 12 years after my last and I'm probably in better shape now than I was back then," she adds.

"I'm really excited, I'm over the moon that I get to vie for a position on the team and I'll give it everything I've got, which I always do.

"I just needed a bit of space to figure out if that's exactly what I want to do and it is and here I am."