Maya Moore retires from WNBA to focus on family, causes


Maya Moore, who stepped away from a thriving WNBA career to help free a man she felt was unjustly imprisoned, formally confirmed her retirement from the sport Monday.

“I think it’s time to put a close to the pro basketball life,” Moore, in an appearance on “Good Morning America,” said while accompanied by the man, Jonathan Irons, who is now her husband and the father of their young child.

“I walked away four seasons ago, but I wanted to officially retire,” Moore, 33, continued. “This is such a sweet time for us and our family. The work we’ve done, I want to continue that in this next chapter.”

From 2020: Maya Moore left the basketball court for criminal justice reform. She is seeing the results.

The No. 1 pick in the 2011 WNBA draft after a stellar career at Connecticut, Moore was named an all-star six times through 2018, when she last played. In that span, she also led the Minnesota Lynx to four WNBA titles, set franchise records in a number of categories and was named the league’s 2011 rookie of the year and its 2014 MVP. Moore also helped Team USA win gold medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

“Maya Moore has forever left a mark on the state of Minnesota, the Minnesota Lynx franchise and the hearts of Lynx fans everywhere,” Lynx owner Glen Taylor said in a statement Monday. “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’s college career was arguably even more impressive than her stint in the pros. A two-time Naismith Player of the Year, she went 150-4 with the Huskies over four seasons that included two national championships and four appearances in the Final Four.

“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,” Connecticut Coach Geno Auriemma said Monday. “I’m sure this was a very difficult decision for her and her family. 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. …

“It’s great that Maya was able to walk away on her own terms at the top of her game while she was still a champion,” Auriemma continued. “She decided that winning championships off the court was more fulfilling than the championships she won on the court.”

Moore met Irons in 2007, when he was a decade into a 50-year prison sentence handed to him after the nonfatal shooting of a homeowner in the St. Louis area. At the time, she was a high-schooler participating in a youth ministry program. Moore came to conclude that Irons, who was arrested at 16 and placed behind bars in 1997, was the victim of prosecutorial misconduct. In March 2020, his conviction was overturned by a judge after his lawyers argued there was no evidence corroborating the homeowner’s testimony that Irons broke into his home and committed the assault, with the judge also noting that a relevant fingerprint report was not disclosed to Irons’s original defense team.

Irons was released from prison in July 2020, and he and Moore got married a few months later. They welcomed a baby boy into the world in February 2022.

In her GMA appearance Monday, Moore said that while her basketball career was ending, her activism would not.

“I want to continue to be present at home,” she said, “for my community, for my family, our little baby, for Jonathan — but also doing work with Win with Justice, our nonprofit, to continue to raise awareness about prosecutorial reform and how we can have safer and healthier communities.”

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement that Moore’s on-court accomplishments were “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.”

“Her staunch advocacy for change to the criminal justice system through her ‘Win With Justice’ project elevated her impact to new heights,” Engelbert said, “and her work has and will continue to inspire her fans around the world.”

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