Maya Moore will sit out 2nd WNBA season, 2020 Tokyo Olympics but brushes off retirement

Minnesota Lynx's Maya Moore will sit out another WNBA season. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Maya Moore will take a second year away from basketball as she continues her focus on criminal justice reform, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

Moore, 30, will miss the 2020 WNBA season with the Minnesota Lynx, where she won four championships, and take her name out of consideration for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The eight-year veteran announced around this time last year she would take a year off from basketball to pursue time with her family and ministry work. In September she said she was not ready to return to the game and was solely focused on helping Jonathan Irons overturn a 50-year prison sentence.

“I’m in a really good place right now with my life, and I don’t want to change anything,” Moore said, via Kurt Streeter of the New York Times. “Basketball has not been foremost in my mind. I’ve been able to rest, and connect with people around me, actually be in their presence after all of these years on the road. And I’ve been able to be there for Jonathan.”

Irons was convicted of burglary and assaulting a homeowner with a gun at the age of 16. Moore believes the man, a family friend whom she did not speak much about until 2016, is innocent. Irons, a black man, was tried as an adult by an all-white jury and was not allowed to be cross examined, per the Times. There are reportedly no corroborating witnesses or DNA evidence in the case. A judge reopened Irons case with Moore’s help last autumn and court appearances are continuing with a hearing next week.

Moore not ready to retire

The decision to miss another season is a blow to the league, the Lynx and USA Basketball in an Olympic year, but it’s not the end. Moore told the New York Times she wasn’t yet ready to call it quits completely. Via NYT:

“I don’t feel like this is the right time for me to retire,” she said. “Retirement is something that is a big deal and there is a right way to do it well, and this is not the time for me.”

Nonetheless, she added: “I have had such a unique experience in the game. I got to experience the best of my craft, and I did that multiple times. There is nothing more I wish I could experience.”

Moore has played constantly since her playing days at UConn, where she led two undefeated teams, and cited fatigue when she announced her first season off. It’s an issue that has plagued the WNBA for years, and that is addressed in a new collective bargaining agreement that will hopefully keep players from having to go overseas and play year-round.

What it means for U.S. national team

Moore helped lead the U.S. to Olympic gold in 2012 and 2016 as well as FIBA World Championships gold in 2010 and 2014. The 2014 WNBA MVP has a list of awards that span from youth to professional and is one of the most decorated players in the women’s basketball. Losing her was a hit to the Lynx last season; Minnesota experienced a turnover in leadership and lost in the first round of the playoffs. The team has been supportive of her decision, and head coach Cheryl Reeve reiterated that in a statement Wednesday.

“Over the last year we have been in frequent contact with Maya around the great work in criminal justice reform and ministry in which she is fully engaged. We are proud of the ways that Maya is advocating for justice and using her platform to impact social change.”

It will be a similar hit to the national team, which is loaded with talent but was boosted by Moore.

“We are going to miss Maya tremendously, but we also respect her decision,” Carol Callan, director of the United States national team, told the New York Times. “A player of Maya’s ability does not walk away from the gym lightly. Everyone feels it. The thing that makes her so special is her approach, her dedication, which has always been contagious for our team. We know how devoted she is to what she believes in, and that what she is doing is remarkable.”

The national team will play UConn in an exhibition on Monday night that airs on ESPN. It’s one of two games they scheduled after touring four of the top Pac-12 teams in the fall, notably falling to title favorite Oregon and Sabrina Ionescu, a future superstar. It features a slew of former Huskies against the latest group.

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