Lynx star Maya Moore officially retires from basketball

Maya Moore's courageous fight against injustice (9:37)

Maya Moore has proved her achievements span far beyond her basketball accolades. Moore's role in seeking justice for her now husband, Jonathan Irons, is only the start of her life beyond basketball. Moore wins the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. (9:37)

Maya Moore, the NCAA, WNBA and Olympic champion who stepped away from basketball to work on social justice issues and help overturn the wrongful conviction of her future husband, officially announced Monday she is retiring from her playing career.

She spoke to media about the memories she has from her time with the UConn women's basketball team, where she was part of two perfect seasons, and the Minnesota Lynx, a dynasty that won four WNBA titles and appeared in the league finals six times during Moore's eight-season WNBA career.

Moore, 33, also recalled her international career, playing in Spain, China and Russia, plus winning two gold medals for the United States in both the Summer Olympics and the FIBA Women's World Cup.

But Moore left all of that behind after the 2018 WNBA season, at age 29 and in the prime of her career, to help longtime family friend Jonathan Irons get a 50-year prison sentence overturned, which happened in 2020. Moore and Irons then married that year and had a son last summer.

"I couldn't have written this story like this," Moore said Monday, "This has definitely been unexpected. But at the same time, it's been really thoughtful and planned and prepared. That's life, right? A lot of it is unexpected, but you also do your best to try to be prepared. That's basketball, too. You don't know how the game's going to unfold, but you do your best to prepare."

Usually, though, games unfolded in Moore's favor. Born in Jefferson City, Missouri, in June 1989, she was high-energy child inspired at the fan festival at the 1998 women's Final Four in Kansas City. The Tennessee Lady Volunteers won that NCAA title and eventually would heavily recruit Moore, who by that time had moved to Georgia, where she was a high school star.

But Moore chose to go to UConn, where as a freshman she led the Huskies to the Final Four in 2008. That was the program's ninth Final Four, and the first in the string of 14 in a row that is still ongoing. UConn lost in the semifinals to Stanford that year, but then started a 90-game winning streak the next season that would bring two more national championships to the Huskies. UConn was 39-0 in both 2008-09 and 2009-10.

Moore's UConn career ended with a rare loss, in the national semifinals against Notre Dame in 2011. She won her third consecutive Wade Trophy as national player of the year, finishing 150-4 at UConn.

Asked her favorite memory at UConn, where she averaged 19.7 points and 8.3 rebounds and is the school's all-time leading scorer (3,036 points), Moore actually referenced preseason workouts in 2008 that led to the two perfect seasons.

"Those five weeks in the fall before the season got started, and we were training our tails off," Moore said, smiling. "We were so motivated having lost in the Final Four the year before. And our team chemistry just shot through the roof. We were just all so focused and unified in that grind. And it ended up leading to what would see in those next few years."

Moore was the WNBA's No. 1 draft pick in 2011, going to the Lynx the season after Cheryl Reeve had taken over as coach and point guard Lindsay Whalen had come to the franchise via trade. Moore joined a team that also had 2006 No. 1 draft pick Seimone Augustus, and the Lynx won the first of their four titles with a WNBA Finals sweep in Atlanta in 2011.

It began a run in which the Lynx made the WNBA Finals six times in a seven-year stretch. Their other titles came in 2013, 2015 and 2017. Moore was named WNBA MVP in 2014, when she averaged career highs of 23.9 points and 8.1 rebounds.

For her Lynx career, she averaged 18.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 271 regular-season games, and 19.2 PPG, 6.0 RPG and 3.2 APG in 56 playoff games. She was 2011 Rookie of the Year, a WNBA first-team selection five times, the 2013 WNBA Finals MVP and a six-time All-Star.

"On behalf of the Minnesota Lynx organization, I want to congratulate Maya on an incredible basketball career," Reeve said in a statement. "We will always cherish her time in a Lynx uniform and we wish her the best as she continues to pursue this next chapter of her life."

Moore said that over the past four years, what she has longed for the most about basketball was her Lynx teammates. But she said her mind was so focused on her personal life and social justice work, it wasn't hard for those things to become her priority.

"Just trying to learn a new rhythm outside of playing," she said. "It was very hard at times to kind of accept like ... missing my teammates. Because as you guys would watch us, you know over that eight-year stretch, our chemistry was just awesome.

"I think there's very few teams that had a core like we did with such good chemistry ... so I missed that more than anything. But I was so full and focused on what I was doing that I wasn't just sitting around wishing I was playing again. I just felt such a sense of purpose."

Moore said people have asked her about coaching basketball someday. While she won't rule that out, she said the commitment it takes to be a good coach is not something to take lightly.

"Coaches give so much, it takes such commitment," she said. "There's no way I could have had the journey that I've had without coaches. I was super-spoiled to have literally world-class coaches for more than half of my career.

"So I don't want to say, 'Yeah, I could coach,' like it's this casual thing. Coaching is a heavy, honorable, super-invested thing. My time and my energy, where I'm at in my life right now, doesn't have the space for it. If we don't have great coaches, we don't have worthwhile sports."

UConn's Geno Auriemma has coached some of the greatest women's basketball players in history, with Moore high on that list.

"Maya obviously has thought this out, and I'm sure it wasn't a decision that came easily," Auriemma said in a statement about her retirement. "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.

"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. She decided that winning championships off the court was more fulfilling than the championships she won on the court. I have no doubt in my mind that the success she had in high school, in college, in the pros, in the Olympics, have prepared her for even greater success for her, for her family and the community that she's a part of. I'm really proud of her for making this decision."

When asked what she hopes fans remember the most about her, Moore said her passion and energy, which she had from childhood.

"I hope people saw me as someone who gave all she had in whatever she was doing," Moore said. "But also somebody who looks beyond the craft that I pursue and tries to value people. Having a healthy, life-giving perspective about where people fit into this this journey of life that we're in.

"And someone that never gave up. Whether it was being down in a game and trying to help the team come back, or not giving up on a person, like Jonathan. Or just persisting through the grind of every year. I tried to finish the things that I said yes to."