Six time WNBA all-star, 5 time All-WNBA first-team honoree, 4 WNBA titles, the only 3-time winner of the WNBA Wade Trophy, 2 NCAA titles at UConn, 2 Olympic gold medals, and a 2011 WNBA Rookie of the Year. Maya Moore is a beast. One of the best ever to play professional basketball. Ms. Moore’s stats are GOAT-worthy. So why in the world would she stop dribbling, stop shooting in February 2019?
She was 29, on the ascendancy as a professional players. Had another year before she reached 30, the golden year of athletic prowess. What was she thinking? Why stop when she was so near the top?
In sports, far too many choose to continue chasing after monetary rewards. There are not many Saul-to-Paul stories in professional sports. Muhammad Ali refusing to be inducted into the U.S. Army is the most noted of that small group who sacrificed glory and gold to stand for principles.
In Maya’s case giving up the pursuit of financial security and personal happiness was not a solipsism. She had not secretly joined a cult, nor decided to switch from one sport to another. No. None of that. She wasn’t ill with an incurable disease nor blinded by love. She had not loss the age-old tug that impels young athletes to succumb to the pull of feeling responsible for the financial well-being of their family and friends.
Maya Moore was a true believer. She decided to work to secure the freedom of others. Specifically, Maya Moore dedicated her life to voluntarily working full time to obtain the freedom of Jonathan Irons, a man who was convicted and incarcerated in 1998 when Maya was only eight years old. Maya did not meet Irons until 2007. Her story is simply inspiring.
Most of us may not know her name, but all of us need to know her story. Although the daily routine of training constantly, playing full time in the WNBA, and traveling as a professional baller in Europe and China during the off-seasons had taken a heavy toll, somehow, Maya was able to dig even deeper and undertook the daunting task of working to free an incarcerated man she had never met before.
Two decades into the 21st century, in the 2020 year of a world-wide pandemic, when we all are beset by almost paralyzing social anxiety and by seemingly unending economic and political uncertainty, Maya Moore is steadfast in working for criminal justice reform.
Her calculation had been simple: what would it profit a young woman to gain the world in exchange for her beliefs in her fellow man? That’s an age-old question that Maya Moore answered by the example of her dedication to a cause greater than herself.
She was not forced by the strictures of the coronavirus to give up a lucrative career. Her choice preceded lock-downs and massive street demonstrations. Her 2019 decision was based on her profound belief in the principles of justice. She worked quietly and consistently. You didn’t and won’t often see her on television. Despite her professional achievements, she is not a household name.
As cliched as it may sound, Maya Moore is truly a freedom fighter. Born in Jefferson City, Missouri, Maya was reared by her single mother, Kathryn. When Maya was 11, they moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. Shortly thereafter, the mother-daughter team ended up in Atlanta, Georgia. In a 2010 Atlanta Journal Constitution article, Maya proclaimed, “My faith is the core of who I am”.
We may not all have the basketball talent of Maya Moore or the spiritual dedication she exhibits but nevertheless we all can follow her example. Maya Moore is a stellar athlete who demonstrates that there is more to life than the love of basketball.