Maya Moore knew it was time to officially end her basketball career — four years after stepping away.
The Minnesota Lynx star left the WNBA in 2019 to help her now-husband Jonathan Irons win his release from prison by getting his 50-year sentence overturned in 2020. Irons married Moore soon after his release and the couple had their first child, Jonathan Jr., in February.
She announced her decision to retire Monday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Before that, Moore had been noncommittal about playing basketball again, but she said in an interview with The Associated Press that it was time to retire.
“Over the last year, it finally felt right to just close the chapter,” Moore said. “Talk about it in a celebratory way. … I’m excited to able to give the clarity to the basketball world.”
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Moore said it did cross her mind that her son and husband wouldn’t get to see her play in the WNBA, but that didn’t sway her to keep playing.
Irons said he supported Moore’s decision.
“It was totally her decision and you know it brewed from her heart,” he said. “I was gonna root for her whatever she chose to do. I’d been right there at the stadium yelling: ’Go girl! Take that jump shot, win that championship!”
The 33-year-old Moore won four WNBA championships with the Minnesota Lynx, two Olympic gold medals with USA Basketball and two NCAA titles with UConn.
Moore will be eligible for the Naismith Hall of Fame next year since she stopped playing four years ago, one of the rare athletes to leave their sport in the prime of their career.
She was drafted No. 1 by the Lynx in 2011, winning the Rookie of the Year award and going on to average 18.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.7 steals over eight seasons for Minnesota. She was the league’s MVP in 2014 and the only player in WNBA history with four 40-plus point games.
“Her four WNBA championships, six All-Star selections, an MVP award and a Finals MVP trophy are indicative of the type of rare, generational talent Maya brought to this league, but perhaps her greatest legacy will be what she accomplished beyond the game,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said.
When Moore stepped away from basketball, she started a social action campaign “ Win With Justice.” Moore and her husband also have a book coming out this week titled “Love & Justice.”
“It’s been a real journey writing and telling this story,” Moore said. “There’s so many details, so many struggles and some victories that are so key to the human heart and relatable to people.”
During her career, she was at the forefront of the Lynx becoming one of the first pro sports teams to fully embrace social activism, starting before a game on July 9, 2016, when players wore black T-shirts that read, “Change Starts With Us.” Their message was prompted by fatal police shootings earlier that week of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana.
“I hope people saw me as someone who gave all she had,” Moore said Monday, “but also somebody who looked beyond the craft that I pursued.”
The Lynx went 200-71 in the regular season and 40-16 in the playoffs during Moore’s career as the star among stars in a core that featured Seimone Augustus, Lindsay Whalen, Rebekkah Brunson and eventually Sylvia Fowles.
She finished her career as the Lynx franchise leader in scoring average, 3-point field goals made (530) and steals (449) and finished second in total points scored (4,984), field goals made (1,782), assists (896) and blocks (176).
“Maya Moore has forever left a mark on the state of Minnesota, the Minnesota Lynx franchise and the hearts of Lynx fans everywhere,” Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx owner Glen Taylor said. “Maya’s accolades are numerous; her leadership and talent both fearless and inspirational set the foundation for the most exciting and historic championship run in the league from 2011-2017. While today culminates Maya’s basketball career, there is no doubt she will continue to impact the game we all love.”
Moore went 150-4 in her career at UConn. The two-time AP Player of the Year was a key part of the Huskies’ 90-game winning streak that was the longest ever until the school had an 111-game run a few years later.
“Maya obviously has thought this out and I’m sure it wasn’t a decision that came easily. The love that Maya had for the game, the way she played the game, the passion that she played the game with – you don’t walk away from that nonchalantly. I’m sure this was a very difficult decision for her and her family,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “At the same time, to be able to make this decision says to me that she is so committed to the life and family that she’s built and the causes she’s fighting for now.”