If an athlete walks away from their sport at the height of their career in pursuit of justice for another, is that not heroic? Is that not activism?
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that Maya Moore, the WNBA superstar who felt called to help a longtime friend finally get justice, has been overlooked so often on these year-end lists of greatness. She’s a woman, a Black woman, in a league that for all of its success and general fearlessness seemingly never gets its due.
Moore is a hero, not just to Jonathan Irons, the man she met years ago when a family member began fighting to free Irons, wrongfully convicted of burglary as a teenager based mostly on circumstantial evidence, none of which supported the claim that he was the assailant or even at the victim’s home, but to others who are working to reverse wrongful convictions, and so many who have watched her greatness on the basketball court.
At UConn, Moore was a two-time national champion and multiple-time national player of the year honoree from multiple outlets. After the Minnesota Lynx took her No. 1 overall in 2011, she elevated an already-talented team, and the Lynx won the WNBA championship in her rookie year.
And her third season.
And her fifth.
And her seventh.
She helped Team USA to Olympic gold in 2012 and ‘16.
Chinese fans call her the “Invincible Queen” after leading the Shanxi Flame to three straight Women’s Chinese Basketball Association titles.
There are few athletes in any team sport who have been as successful as Moore. Yet still she walked away from it to do what she believed was right, to fight for someone she knew had been wronged and had his young life taken from him because of a racist justice system.
Moore may never play basketball again, but it doesn’t matter. As heroes go, there are none better.
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