WNBA star Maya Moore helps overturn conviction of man serving 50-year sentence

Photo by Matteo Marchi/Getty Images
Photo by Matteo Marchi/Getty Images /

It’s getting dusty in here after WNBA star Maya Moore’s video of Jonathan Irons.

Maya Moore is not a name you’ll often see alongside Bill Russell, Muhammad Ali or LeBron James for their extensive work involving social issues in America, but she absolutely should be.

Moore, who was already one of the all-time greats in WNBA history in many respects, stepped away from the game of basketball last year, in the midst of her prime, to focus on criminal justice reform in the United States. She championed the case of Jonathan Irons, a 40-year-old African-American man who was serving a 50-year prison sentence on charges of assault and burglary that he was convicted of at age 18.

Four months ago, a judge overturned that conviction, and on Tuesday, he finally walked out of a Missouri penitentiary as a free man. Moore posted a video of the moment, and no matter what room you’re watching it from, it’s probably about to get a little dusty in there:

The sight of Moore, her family and other supporters greeting Irons outside the Jefferson City Correctional Center is something to behold and a testament to a years-long struggle for justice. At one point, Moore drops to her knees, overcome with emotion at Irons finally being free.

“I feel like I can live life now,” Irons says in the video. “I’m free, I’m blessed, I just want to live my life worthy of God’s help and influence.

“I thank everybody that supported me — Maya and her family. Just to be home, to have somewhere to be home.”

Moore, who has averaged 18.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game over the course of her eight-year WNBA career, last played during the 2018 season. She’s a four-time WNBA champion, one-time WNBA Finals and regular-season MVP, six-time All-Star and seven-time all-WNBA selection.

And yet, for someone as talented at basketball as her, it’s Moore’s off-court accomplishments that might wind up being what define her legacy. Whether the 31-year-old WNBA legend ever returns to basketball remains to be seen, but this kind of social justice work pushes her into a different stratosphere of legends for reasons far more important than any sports game.

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