One of the best WNBA players ever, Maya Moore, has been on a hiatus for the past two years while fighting for a man she believes is wrongly imprisoned. Early March this year, a judge ordered his release. Moore couldn't believe it.
“We finally have justice. I was just thinking, ‘Did this really happen? Did it?’”
Maya Moore, NY Times
The WNBA world was stunned in early 2019 when Moore announced she is taking a break from basketball to fight for Jonathan Irons, an inmate in a maximum-security prison in Missouri. Irons was 16 when the crime for which he was convicted occurred. He was tried as an adult and sentenced to 50 years in prison for breaking and entering and assault by an all-white jury.
Moore grew close to Irons, who she talks about as a sibling, in 2007, through her family volunteer prison work and ministry. As Moore was preparing for a stellar career in college and WNBA, she worked with her family to appeal Irons' conviction. 23 years since Irons was sent to prison, they are close to the most significant victory in her life.
“It is so sweet to see the redemption that came from stepping away and giving what I had to this case. It feels like we are holding up that Final Four trophy, but there are still a couple of steps.”
Maya Moore, NY Times
Moore didn't just step away; she stopped playing in her basketball prime. Moore is a 4-time WNBA Champion, Finals MVP, WNBA MVP, 6-time ALL-Star, 5-time All-WNBA First Team, 2-time All-WNBA Second Team - the list goes on and on. As long as you had Moore on your team, you were in title contention.
The steps Moore referred to is the fact the Missouri Attorney General still has the possibility of appealing the decision. Because of that, Moore announced that she was extending her leave from the game for at least another year. She hopes Irons will soon be released, and she plans to be there. When asked about Maya and her family, Irons' kept it simple.
“She saved my life. I would not have this chance if not for her and her wonderful family. She saved my life and I cannot say it better than that.”
Jonathan Irons, NY Times
WNBA doesn't get nearly enough attention as it should. What Moore is doing is spectacular - comparable to what Mohammad Ali did. When talking about athletes' activism, Maya Moore has to be one of the first names that come up.