A basketball superstar in her prime has decided to skip a second straight season and the 2020 Olympics to focus on criminal justice reform.
Maya Moore, a four-time WNBA champion, two-time Olympic gold medalist, two-time world champion and two-time NCAA champion, told The New York Times that she will sit out for the second year in a row to fight for a prisoner she believes was wrongfully convicted.
Moore, 30, a forward with the Minnesota Lynx, will also miss the upcoming summer Olympics in Tokyo.
She has been working on the release of Jonathan Irons, a man she believes is innocent of the crime for which he was sentenced to prison.
“I’m in a really good place right now with my life, and I don’t want to change anything,” Moore told The New York Times. “Basketball has not been foremost in my mind. I’ve been able to rest, and connect with people around me, actually be in their presence after all of these years on the road. And I’ve been able to be there for Jonathan.”
In a statement on Wednesday, Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said, “Over the last year we have been in frequent contact with Maya around the great work in criminal justice reform and ministry in which she is fully engaged. We are proud of the ways that Maya is advocating for justice and using her platform to impact social change.”
‘Unique experience in the game’
When asked if she would ever play again, Moore told the Times: “I don’t feel like this is the right time for me to retire.
“Retirement is something that is a big deal and there is a right way to do it well, and this is not the time for me.”
She also added: “I have had such a unique experience in the game. I got to experience the best of my craft, and I did that multiple times. There is nothing more I wish I could experience.”
Irons, a 39-year-old who is from Missouri, is serving a 50-year sentence after being convicted for burglary and assaulting a homeowner with a gun.
Moore met Irons, who was convicted in 1998 at age 16, in a prison ministry and insists it’s a crime he didn’t commit. Back in October, she told CNN her support of criminal justice reform is necessary.
“When we take time to stand up for people, and to shine a light in a dark place, not everybody is going to like it,” Moore said at the time. “When it costs your comfort or maybe something that you just want to kind of check out and enjoy, I get that.
“Entertainment is a place where you want to relax and not have to think about the cares of the world, but we are in the world and the world is broken. So hats off to people that sacrifice, that pay a cost of a platform, of a job, of money to stand up for something greater than yourselves and at the end of the day, if we remember we’re human beings first, I think it’ll make it a little less controversial.”
Moore is considered one of the greatest women’s basketball players — and winners — of all time. Her resume is full of superlatives.
Selected by the Lynx as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 WNBA draft, Moore went on to win the league’s rookie of the year award and her first WNBA title in her first season. She added titles in 2013, 2015 and 2017, winning WNBA Finals MVP honors in 2013 and the WNBA MVP award in 2014.
As a member of Team USA, Moore won Olympic gold in 2012 and 2016 as well as two world championships in 2010 and 2014.
When she played in college at the University of Connecticut, the Huskies went undefeated in back-to-back seasons, winning national titles in 2009 and 2010.