Since she stepped away from the basketball court after the 2018 season to focus on life outside of sports, we haven’t heard much from Maya Moore on the potential of her suiting up for the WNBA again. But in the last week or so, we have learned more about why one of the best ever to play the game has spent time away from basketball and why her work off the court has been so important to her.
Outside of occasionally appearing on Good Morning America, Moore hasn’t made many public appearances since announcing she would be taking a sabbatical from basketball to focus on criminal justice reform and specifically the case of her now-husband, Jonathan Irons, whose conviction Moore helped get overturned last summer after he spent 23 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
Recently the basketball icon and legendary Minnesota Lynx wing has taken the national stoplight on two separate occasions to shed some insight on the work she’s been doing.
Last Saturday, Moore took part in the 2021 ESPY Awards after being named the recipient of the Arthur Ashe Award, one of the most prestigious honors given out annually to individuals whose contributions transcend sports. Moore joined the likes of Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela, Pat Summitt, and Billie Jean King.
During her six-minute ESPYs speech, Moore talked about how media headlines have been centered around her decision to step away from a successful basketball career and asked people to instead focus on “the courage that it takes to love when it’s hard.” Moore also talked about her social action platform “Win With Justice,” which she said is meant to help inspire, educate, and equip all of us to be active participants against prosecutorial misconduct in our justice system.
“If you want to say I have courage, I’d say my courage has not been as much in me not playing, but in the emotional and mental and spiritual outpouring into love and fighting against injustice,” Moore said.
After that appearance at the ESPYs, Moore’s long-awaited ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, “Breakaway,” aired on ESPN last Tuesday. The 75-minute documentary chronicled Moore’s departure from the WNBA to rededicate her life to criminal justice reform over the last few years.
In that documentary, Moore provided a rare but insightful and inspirational look inside her personal life and how she went from rising to an all-time great on the court to stepping away from the game to help overturn Irons’ wrongful conviction.
Moore, who has been at the center of many social justice initiatives organized by the Lynx during her time with the organization, said in the documentary that the Lynx stand against police brutality in 2016 gave her the courage to start a social justice campaign and focus on those issues when she wasn’t hitting her signature jumper on the hardwood.
Following those two public appearances from Moore, it seems clear she’s pleased with her life away from basketball. Moore hasn’t said she plans to retire from the WNBA, but after seeing the 32-year-old’s latest display of how passionate she is about her work outside of sports, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if she called it a career.
And all of that is perfectly okay.
Not that we have to give Moore any reassurance for the decisions she makes in her playing career or personal life, but her display of contentment with her off-the-court work and her new husband is a reminder to everyone that athletes have lives away from sports and their personal lives should be prioritized over a game.
If Moore decides she doesn’t want to return to basketball, that’s fine. She has done just about everything possible during her playing career. She obviously has future Hall of Fame status once she officially retires. She has given the WNBA and its fans eight seasons of unparalleled performances, resulting in endless accolades and multiple memories etched in league history.
We all knew Moore has done some remarkable work away from the court, especially over the last few years. In the last week or so, we got an even deeper look into that work. The all-time great wants to continue to focus on work off the court. We should respect that.