Seattle Storm forward Lauren Jackson was selected the WNBA's most valuable player for the third time in her career on Thursday night.
Jackson was honored before Game 1 of Seattle's best-of-three Western Conference final against defending champion Phoenix. Also, the Storm's Brian Agler was named the league's coach of the year.
Jackson, a 6-foot-5 forward from Australia, averaged 20.5 points and 8.3 rebounds while helping the Storm to a 28-6 record — tying the league mark for the most wins in a season.
"It's just because of where we are at the moment and the opportunity to do great things this year," Jackson said. "Especially playing the Western Conference finals, that definitely makes it special."
Jackson received 323 points in the voting, including 22 first-place votes from the panel of 39 media members. Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings was second with 262 points (10 first-place votes), and New York Liberty guard Cappie Pondexter was third with 207 points and five first-place votes.
Jackson, selected by the Storm with the first overall pick in the 2001 draft, was previously league MVP in 2007 when she averaged a career-best 23.8 points, and in 2003 when Jackson was the first international player and youngest player to ever receive the award. She joins Sheryl Swoopes (2000, '02, '05) and Lisa Leslie (2001, '04, '06) as the only three-time selections.
Finally healthy, Jackson again showed why she is considered one of the top players in the world. After battling ankle and back problems that cost her parts of the previous two seasons, Jackson managed her health in 2010 and the Storm benefited.
Jackson scored 20 or more points in 16 of her 32 games this season, sitting out twice simply for rest as the Storm raced to a 22-3 start and coasted to the finish. Jackson finished fourth in the league in scoring.
"That run we made when we were 22-2 - that was just awesome," she said. "And winning like that at home, and after every game having the feeling of relief and knowing that we can win here - that was probably the most important part for me."
Agler is in his second head coaching job in the WNBA after being the first coach of the Minnesota Lynx from 1999-2002. After marginal success with the Lynx, Agler has found greater success in Seattle.
In three seasons with the Storm, Agler has led Seattle to 68 victories in the regular season. Seattle finally shook its five-year playoff curse and advanced out of the first-round of the playoffs with a sweep of Los Angeles last week.
"This season has sort of been built up over the last two years," Agler said. "It was putting things together, establishing the way you want to play, developing a proper mindset, and then getting everyone to improve individually. Any time you put a group together, you never know how the chemistry is going to play out. But because of this core group that we had, it sort of came together quite smoothly."
He received 17 votes from the media panel. New York's Anne Donovan — Agler's predecessor in Seattle — was second with 13 votes. Washington's Julie Plank had nine.
The New York Times and Seattle Times first reported the awards.