It was an emotional meeting on July 1 as Maya Moore fell to the ground when she saw Jonathan Iron, a man she put her thriving professional WNBA career on hold to ensure his wrongful conviction is overturned walked out of Missouri prison a free man.
Moore then hugged Jonathan Irons, the man whom she left her professional basketball career with Minnesota Lynx in early 2019 to help to vacate the burglary and assault convictions that had imprisoned the 40-year-old since he was 18.
Irons had been tried as an adult as a 16-year-old on circumstantial evidence, a judge in march 2020 vacated Irons’s convictions, based largely on a fingerprint report that hadn’t been given to the defence and did not show Irons’s fingerprints at the crime scene.
Irons maintained his innocence since the 1998 case, and would not have been eligible for parole until he was around 60.
Moore first met Irons through prison ministry in 2007, and left basketball in early 2019 to focus on Irons’s appeal. Moore has spoken out about her friendship with Irons since 2016, after protests against police brutality spurred by the shooting of Michael Brown swept the nation. She and the Minnesota Lynx were some of the first to publicly align themselves with the Black Lives Matter movement.
When Moore asked Irons how it felt to finally leave prison, he said, “Life. I feel like I can live life now, man. I’m free, I’m blessed. I just want to live my life worthy of God’s help and influence.” These are tears of joy, we promise.
Four-time WNBA champion Maya Moore, a basketball superstar in her prime, announced in January she would skip a second season to focus on criminal justice reform. “When we take time to stand up for people, and to shine a light in a dark place, not everybody is going to like it,” she had said. “When it costs your comfort or maybe something that you just want to kind of check out and enjoy, I get that entertainment is a place where you want to relax and not have to think about the cares of the world, but we are in the world and the world is broken. So hats off to people that sacrifice, that pay a cost of a platform, of a job, of money to stand up for something greater than yourselves and at the end of the day, if we remember we’re human beings first, I think it’ll make it a little less controversial.”
Maya Moore is considered one of the greatest women’s basketball players of all time. Her resume is magnificent. Selected by the Minnesota Lynx as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 WNBA draft, back-to-back titles in 2013, 2015 and 2017, MVP honours in 2013 and the WNBA MVP award in 2014, Olympic gold in 2012 and 2016 and world championships in 2010 and 2014. When she played in college at the University of Connecticut, the Huskies went undefeated in back-to-back seasons, winning national titles in 2009 and 2010.
Moore is a Christian and openly speaks about her faith, saying “Even though I’ve got a lot of awards and honours, it’s nothing compared to what The Lord has done to my heart and what He’s done for the world” and “I’m grateful to have the platform of an elite student-athlete and professional basketball player, and I want to do His will with my life.”