Maya Moore receives Performer of the Year Award at SI’s Sportsperson of the Year Awards

Photo Credit: AP

It was the first time Sports Illustrated has ever issued a Performer of the Year award at the Sportsperson of the Year Awards. From the vantage point of a WNBA fan, Maya Moore seems like a superb choice to be the recipient of that award.

It’s extra special…to be representing for the WNBA and to know that people are paying attention and recognizing the excellence that we’re seeing in the WNBA, coming off this amazing WNBA Finals.

–Maya Moore to

The awards took place at the Barclays Center on Tuesday Dec. 5 with a television airing on Friday on NBCSN.

Moore was just one of many of a star-studded list of awards recipients – including Jose Altuve (Houston Astros) and JJ Watt who were named co-Sportspersons of the Year, Hope Award winner Carlos Beltran, and Rising Star of the Year Joel Embiid.

In an interview with SI’s Richard Deitsch, she was asked what is it that defines winning.

The answer can be very deep depending on your perspective and how you are measuring success, how you are measuring failure, and how you are measuring winning.

You have to have some winners who know how to win people, to [keep] people together with vision and perspective. Then you have to have toughness and resiliency because sustained excellence is way harder than it looks. You have to be able to bounce back and deal with disappointment, failure, and weaknesses, and a lot of that happens behind the scenes for teams that are very successful.

Moore was also asked about the last few moments of Game 5 of this previous season’s WNBA Finals against the Los Angeles Sparks. It appeared that the Lynx, who were looking to avenge the demons of the previous season’s Finals against those same Sparks, were going to cruise to victory before a furious Los Angeles rally made it a 79-76 contest.

Moore eventually converted on a key play to propel the Lynx to an 85-76 win and their fourth title in franchise history.

I did not make the best inbounds pass to Seimone, trying to lead her away from the defense. But Seimone had my back and adjusted. Anytime Syl has the ball outside of the scoring area for her, I am going to get the ball to try to make a play. My instincts took over. I got the ball, was going downhill, and made a read and a reaction to get to my favorite spot on the floor – the lower defensive area. No thinking. I’m just playing.

Recently, Moore has also used her platform as one of the best women’s basketball players in the world to advance for social justice as many WNBA players have.

The summer of 2016 propelled me in a direction to be more comfortable in sharing my heart and my journey when it comes to bigger issues.

–Maya Moore to SI’s Richard Deitsch

That summer of 2016 included WNBA players – including those of the Lynx – leading protests against police brutality. That summer, Philando Castile was shot by a Minneapolis officer and Alton Sterling was killed by two cops in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Officers in Dallas, Texas were also killed at a Black Lives Matter rally that same summer.

This year, Moore was featured on an episode of Jerry Stackhouse’s The First Step at The Players’ Tribune where she specifically highlighted the case of Jonathan Irons, who according to a site that is advocating for his release, was wrongfully arrested as a teenager for a shooting in a burglary case in Jefferson City, Missouri.

Moore also co-wrote a USA Today op-ed with Miriam Krinsky, the executive director of an organization called Fair and Just Prosecution and Mark Dupree, the district attorney for Wyandotte County, Kansas – a minority-majority county in the Kansas City area.

Moore also further discussed her efforts for reform when speaking with Dave Zirin of The Nation Magazine. Zirin also hosts the Edge of Sports podcast.

I think being in the African-American community, I have a built-in connection to issues facing Black Americans. But it’s also being in the sports world today and being connected to people that are taking an interest in the issues that face minorities and people of color.

She specifically referenced the Ava Duvernay documentary 13th which chronicles how since the emancipation of African-Americans from slavery in the 1800s, oppression and disenfranchisement of Black people has continued in other ways. These were seen in the implementation of Jim Crow Laws during Reconstruction as well as oppressive voter practices today.

I love celebrating good leaders, but I also have high standards for leaders because the impact that we can have can be really great or it can be devastating… So I just thought it was a great place to connect, to encourage….because we can vote in new D.A.’s who can have control over and influence over many issues [such as sentencing, bail reform, mass incarceration, racial bias.]

Zirin also asked Moore about that summer of 2016 where after some initial pushback from the league itself, the players prevailed and, since then, more players and teams have been on the front lines on the fight for social change.

So the heart of our message of in 2016 was, change starts with us because we’re just trying to model what we do as champions, which is when things are going wrong, when craziness is happening, we can’t sit here and point the finger. We have to look inside of ourselves and take responsibility first for what we can do to help the situation.

By: Akiem Bailum (@AkiemBailum on Twitter, Instagram)