Maya Moore received an award at the 2021 ESPYS even if she has not played a single WNBA game since 2018.
The ESPYS recognizes the best players, moments, coaches, and games in sports. And even if Moore has not been active in basketball for three years now, her impact beyond the court makes her deserving of any trophy that honors athletes.
It's very fitting that Moore won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, which is given to an individual who has made significant contributions that transcend sports, at this stage in her life. This is her seventh – and probably the most meaningful – ESPYS trophy, having won the Best WNBA Player and Best Female College Athlete awards three times each.
Moore, a WNBA MVP, four-time WNBA champion, and two-time Olympic gold medalist, stepped away from the game at her prime to focus on fighting for social justice. In 2020, she helped overturn the wrongful conviction of her now-husband Jonathan Irons, who had been imprisoned for over two decades.
Since then, Moore has done a lot more work for the advancement of a fair and equitable criminal justice system. The 32-year-old Minnesota Lynx star has not yet announced her future WNBA plans after missing the last three seasons.
"I'd say my courage has not been as much in me not playing but in the emotional and mental and spiritual outpouring into love and fighting against injustice," Moore said in her acceptance speech at the ESPYS.
Moore talked at length about her non-profit Win With Justice, a social action campaign aimed at educating and empowering the public to be active participants in reforming the justice system. She also discussed the unique power and influence of athletes to make a difference in their communities.
"Sacrifice is one of the most compelling aspects of sports – the sacrifice of comfort for a greater level of skill, the sacrifice it takes to work together as a team so everyone can shine in their gifts," said Moore. "These sacrifices we make in sports are great. But I would invite you to see them as just pointers to the sacrifices of life that matter most... sacrificing the power you have to humanize someone else."
"Power is not meant to be gripped with a clenched fist or to be hoarded. But power is meant to be handled generously so we can thoughtfully empower one another to thrive in our communities for love's sake, championing our humanity before our ambitions," Moore closed.
Paige Bueckers of the UConn Huskies, named Best College Athlete in women's sports, also stole the show with her powerful speech highlighting Black women in sports.
"With the light that I have now as a white woman who leads a Black-led sport and celebrated here, I want to shed a light on Black women,” said Bueckers. “They don't get the media coverage that they deserve. They've given so much to the sport, the community, and society as a whole, and their value is undeniable.”
Bueckers, 19, went on to thank Black women, including Moore, college softball star Odicci Alexander, and sports broadcasters Maria Taylor and Robin Roberts, who were all in attendance at the ESPYS.
Here's the complete list of the 2021 ESPYS basketball awardees:
- Arthur Ashe Courage Award: Maya Moore
- Best Coach: Tara VanDerveer, Stanford Cardinal
- Best College Athlete, Women's Sports: Paige Bueckers, UConn Huskies
- Best Game: Gonzaga defeats UCLA 93-90, NCAA men's Final Four
- Best Breakthrough Athlete: LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets
- Best Record-Breaking Performance: Russell Westbrook of the Washington Wizards breaks Oscar Robertson's 47-year-old triple-double record with 182
- Best NBA Player: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
- Best WNBA Player: Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm
- Best Athlete With A Disability, Women's Sports: Becca Murray, Wheelchair Basketball
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