WNBA Star Maya Moore Retires After Bringing Justice To Her Husband : Consider This from NPR Maya Moore stepped away from her stellar basketball career to help free Jonathan Irons, a man who was incarcerated for over two decades on a wrongful conviction.

With the help of Moore and her family, Irons was exonerated and released from prison in 2020.

Over the course of working on his case, Moore and Irons developed a friendship that turned into love and the pair got married shortly after Irons was freed from prison.

This month, Moore officially retired from basketball to focus on her new family with Irons.

We speak with Moore and Irons about their journey together.

In participating regions, you'll also hear a local news segment to help you make sense of what's going on in your community.

Email us at considerthis@npr.org.

Retired WNBA Star Maya Moore And Her Husband Jonathan Irons Talk About Their Journey

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Maya Moore started playing basketball as a kid, and she grew up to dominate the court as a professional basketball player.


UNIDENTIFIED SPORTSCASTER #1: Moore will get it off. The shot is good. Game three belongs to Maya Moore and Minnesota.

UNIDENTIFIED SPORTSCASTER #2: She's got a new career high - 40 points for Maya Moore - 40.

UNIDENTIFIED SPORTSCASTER #3: How do you stop her?

UNIDENTIFIED SPORTSCASTER #1: There's 3,000 points in the career of the great Maya Moore, the seventh player in NCAA history to do it. So Maya gets to 3,000. What a career.

UNIDENTIFIED SPORTSCASTER #3: This crowd giving her a standing ovation.

CHANG: In college, Moore won two national titles at the University of Connecticut. She was a WNBA champion four times with the Minnesota Lynx. And don't forget her two Olympic gold medals. I could go on. But you get the point. Her accolades established her as one of the country's best professional basketball players ever. Here's former President Obama in 2014 honoring the Minnesota Lynx for winning the 2013 WNBA championship, where he joked about how many times Moore had been at the White House already to celebrate her many titles.


BARACK OBAMA: You did it with fellow All-Star and Finals MVP Maya Moore, who has now been here so many times I've lost track. I mean...


OBAMA: ...Basically there's, like, a Maya Moore wing in the White House.


OBAMA: Yeah. And when she comes, you know, we kind of - you know, we got all her stuff here. She's got a toothbrush and...


CHANG: A few years later, Moore stunned a lot of people when she announced, arguably still at the height of her career, that she was skipping the 2019 WNBA season.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The day began with Twitter chatter that Maya Moore had made a decision, and by early afternoon, Maya Moore ended the speculation and made it official. She will not be playing in the WNBA this season.

CHANG: At the age of 29, she decided to put her basketball career on pause in order to help free a man from prison.


MAYA MOORE: Hello, everyone. My name is Maya Moore, and I'm here to ask you to join me in demanding a fair trial for Jonathan Irons, who has been wrongfully incarcerated since 1997.

CHANG: Moore's family met Jonathan Irons through a prison ministry program back in 1999. He was then serving a 50-year sentence for a crime he had always said he did not commit. Irons, a young Black man, was convicted by an all-white jury for a burglary and the non-fatal shooting of a white man despite the absence of any physical evidence tying Irons to those crimes. Moore and her family had been privately working to get his wrongful conviction overturned for years, and eventually they succeeded. After 23 years behind bars, Irons was exonerated in the summer of 2020.


MOORE: How does it feel? Tell me. How does it feel?


MOORE: One sentence.

IRONS: I feel like I can live life now. And I'm free. I'm blessed.

CHANG: And just days after that, Irons and Moore would begin a new life together as husband and wife. In February of last year, they welcomed a new member of their family, a baby boy, Jonathan Houston Irons Jr. And then just this month, Maya Moore announced her official retirement from basketball.


MOORE: I think it is time to put a close to the pro basketball life.

CHANG: I spoke with Maya Moore and Jonathan Irons, and that conversation is just ahead.


CHANG: From NPR, I'm Ailsa Chang. It's Thursday, January 26.


CHANG: It's CONSIDER THIS FROM NPR. Maya Moore and her husband Jonathan Irons published this month a memoir called "Love And Justice: A Story Of Triumph On Two Different Courts." It details their journey together, a journey that includes Moore stepping away from her celebrated basketball career to help Irons overturn a wrongful conviction that resulted in his incarceration for more than two decades. I sat down with Moore and Irons to talk about how they got to this point in their lives.

So I want to start with Maya first. Can I ask - I mean, you're only 33, and we're talking about a world where, like, Tom Brady is trying to play football until he's, like, 80 years old. Are you sure there is no comeback, say, like, five years from now?

MOORE: I do not have a desire to play until I'm 80. Let's first of all put that on the record.

CHANG: (Laughter) Now, I would become a basketball fan if that happened, if you were playing in your 80s.

MOORE: (Laughter) That would be something, right? No, I just - I've been able to be a part of so many great teams and winning championships, and there's nothing more I could ask for, for a basketball career. It's really beautiful to be at this point where I'm so excited about this next chapter with getting a chance to have a rhythm that's more rooted at home and connected with my community and present for my family and getting a chance to, you know, raise our little boy together. And I definitely do not plan on making one of those Michael Jordan comebacks.

CHANG: (Laughter) You sound very peacefully resolved. I want to step back a little because I so want to hear a bit more about how you and Jonathan first met. Jonathan, can you tell me about that?

IRONS: Well, I was in the prison visiting room. And Maya's godparents Reggie - Cheri and Reggie Williams - they had been coming to see me every weekend for years at that point.

CHANG: 'Cause they were very interested in your case.

IRONS: Yes and just also interested in me as a person. But in the visiting room, Maya walked in, and she was just such a warm, humble, inviting person. And she looked me in the eyes and just - she didn't look away or shriek in fear or look at me like I was less than because I was very familiar with those looks and how that felt. And we just hung out, and we kicked it and had fun. And we just continued to grow our friendship.

CHANG: And at what moment did that friendship turn into something a little more than friendship?

IRONS: I don't think there was a moment. I think it was kind of like building a brick house, you know, one brick at a time. And before you know it, you have a whole house. And you just can't identify one brick out of the whole brick house that basically stood out, which also gives us a firm foundation because we got to know each other. We got to know each other's character.

CHANG: Yeah.

IRONS: And we got to walk with each other and experience encouraging each other in low moments in our lives. And we made time to talk to each other because she had a busy life that she was involved in. And I had a busy life that I was involved in that basically I had to survive, and I was fighting for my freedom and all these different things. And she was out dominating, taking championships left and right, you know, leaving horror to her opponents in the wake of her, you know, coming on the court.

CHANG: (Laughter).

IRONS: I think just knowing that we were both there for each other, and we weren't willing to turn and look away and go in a different direction - like, we were locked on to each other at a heart level, you know?

CHANG: Yeah.

MOORE: We just developed a profound respect for each other. And that respect and that affection - God wove it together to become a deep love, and that's where we have been now for the last almost 10 years and have that in marriage now for 2 1/2 years, which is crazy. Time is flying. Now the time is flying. Before, it was dragging on. But now...

CHANG: (Laughter).

MOORE: ...The time is flying.

CHANG: Well, I mean, there was so much attention around your and Jonathan's story as it was happening. And after Jonathan was released in 2020, you both got married. You had a child, as we've mentioned. Like, how hard - how tough has it been getting on with a normal life?

IRONS: It has been the easiest because I've come from, you know - for lack of a better word, I come from a savage land, and I've lived there for over half my life. And I kept my head on a swivel, you know? And then here I am, I'm coming out here and just - you know, just trying to decompress. And I remember one day I was - a police officer got behind me. And oh, my God, I almost had a heart attack. I pulled off and went into this lot, and I had to calm down and realize, like, I was OK. And it was rough. And then also, like, Maya and I just growing, like, living with each other - we have different experiences. And then so we had to slow down and break down, like, what we meant to really help each other understand each other. And then on top of that, like, I'm having nightmares and waking up in the middle of the night breaking off in sweat 'cause I'm reliving or remembering something that I had to deal with in prison. It's still uncomfortable and difficult to actually even talk about the facts of my case. It just - I really try to avoid it, but I know talking about it - it just - it helps me process it and move on little by little each day that I'm able to do it.

CHANG: How about for you, Maya? How different was the married life you imagined compared to the married life that you are living with Jonathan?

MOORE: I learned walking with Jonathan and walking with God. You know, our faith in our relationship with God is the foundation of everything that we do. And I feel like the Lord showed me - I was hoping for things with kind of more of a narrow vision of how I would want it to unfold, when, in fact, what's going to happen could be more beautiful, more mysterious and more creative than I can even envision. And so I started to approach this journey with more of an open hand and an open mind of...

CHANG: Yeah.

MOORE: ...What life is and how it happens. And I think it's been very helpful because it has been hard. There's layers of my life of transitioning from being a player to a - you know, not playing and then transitioning as being a friend to Jonathan, you know, coming home, and then the dynamic of being married and then becoming parents. Like, that's a whole lot of life shift and life change, all happening within the course of a couple of years. And...

CHANG: Sure, yeah.

MOORE: ...I think walking away from the game - restructuring my life to create space was just so crucial. Like, one of the biggest things that I've learned is a centerpiece for our family is margin. Margin, margin, margin - leave yourself margin to be human because there's going to be unexpected things that you've got to give your attention to...

CHANG: Absolutely.

MOORE: ...If you want to be well. So that's where we're at with just trying to cultivate home and trying to heal 'cause healing is - you know, it's going to be this lifelong process, right? So we are trying to do that.

CHANG: Well, I wish the both of you - the three of you - the absolute best. Maya Moore and Jonathan Irons - they tell their story in a new book. It's called "Love And Justice: A Story Of Triumph On Two Different Courts." Thank you both so, so much.

MOORE: Thank you.

IRONS: Thank you, yes.



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