Maya Moore of the Lynx is telling the story about the day she taught her mom, Kathryn, how to block her shot. They are laughing, they are smiling. You get a sense of the depth of their relationship by the lightness of the banter, the easy way they finish each other’s thoughts.
Kathryn: “So she says, ‘It’s so much fun when you do it.’ ”
Maya: “So I ask her, ‘Do you want to try it?’ ”
Kathryn, mimicking the move: “Pow.’’
Maya: “Now she goes and tells everybody, ‘Yeah, I blocked her shot.’ ”
When they’re together, it’s obvious how much the two look alike. The eyes, the smile. And they’re together often. Almost 24 years ago, Kathryn gave birth to her only child and suddenly became a single mom. A nurse came by to take Maya — named after poet laureate Maya Angelou — to the nursery so Kathryn could get some rest. No. Kathryn preferred to hold Maya in her arms.
That was the start of Team Moore.
There always has been other family — doting grandparents, close cousins. But essentially Maya has had Kathryn and vice versa.
From their move from Jefferson City, Mo., to Charlotte, N.C., when Maya was 11 to their move to the suburbs of Atlanta not long after. When Maya went to the University of Connecticut, Kathryn moved to Storrs with her. And when Maya went to China to play basketball last fall, acting as an ambassador for the sport in a new land, Kathryn went along.
Mother and daughter. Friends. Teammates. Partners.
“As I’ve gotten older it has become more of a team dynamic,” Maya said. “She’s involved in my everyday life, my business life, helping my brand go. I think growing up she had no idea, and I had no idea, it was going to lead to this. To the WNBA, all this excitement, championships, all the things that have come so far. … It’s been great being able to trust that someone has my back.”
When the two prepared for a Mother’s Day photo shoot. Kathryn pulled out a brush and started in on Maya’s long hair. Maya adjusted Kathryn’s shirt. Then Maya put her arms around her mother and they both smiled for the camera.
They are remembering Maya’s first basketball team.
Maya: “Second grade, YMCA, green and white.’’
Kathryn: “She was the only one who could score.”
Maya: “I didn’t let it go to my head, though.”
Kathryn put a toy basketball hoop on a bedroom door when Maya was 4. Was it prescience or pragmatism?
Kathryn, laughing: “I just needed her to be doing something while I was cooking dinner.”
Maya: “Whether it was a soccer ball, a basketball, a rock, I just needed something to keep me occupied.’’
Soon, though, it became pretty much only basketball. Maya still can remember putting up shots in her driveway, telling her mother she didn’t want to go to gymnastics. That’s OK, Kathryn said, but if that’s your decision you have to stick with it.
“I was a high-energy kid,” Maya said. “Basketball was great for that. Because there was never a down moment, you’re always either on offense or defense. Great game for me. Unlike, maybe, softball. I couldn’t do it; I’d be doing cartwheels in the outfield, chasing butterflies.”
Like mother, like daughter
The two sound alike, too, in voice and style. Both consider answers to questions, pause for the right words, choose them carefully. Both are admitted perfectionists. They both laugh when talking about Kathryn helping Maya with her homework. Maya would write out an essay longhand, then read it to Kathryn, who would type it.
Maya: “She’d be like, ‘Why don’t you put the comma here? Maybe you could say it like this?’ And I’d be, ‘No, semicolon there.’ ”
Kathryn: “It would just be back and forth.”
Maya: “We wanted it to be good, we wanted it to be right.”
Kathryn comes from a family of educators. School and goals were important. Ask Maya and she will say one of the strongest lessons she learned from her mother was preparation.
When Maya was 10 she and her mom visited a cousin who played the drums. Maya decided she wanted to play and wanted a set. OK, Kathryn said, how will you pay for them? Maya’s Mobile Car Wash was born. They made fliers, printed up order forms, then they went, together, around the neighborhood washing cars.
Kathryn: “She was able to raise enough to pay half for the drums, and I paid the other half.”
Maya: “I didn’t raise all of it? I’ve been telling people I paid for all of it.”
When Maya was in middle school, Kathryn decided it was time to start planning for college. She had Maya make up a résumé — it had her GPA, her stats (which Kathryn kept), her summer plans — and send it to select schools. Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma still has it in his desk drawer.
Of course, by then Maya was rolling — a great student, a standout player. She won three state titles in high school, two NCAA crowns. Olympic gold, a WNBA championship. She became the first female basketball player to sign with the Jordan Brand.
She was prepared.
More goals ahead
Their future looks bright. Entering her third WNBA season, Moore has trimmed her body, looking for more quickness and explosion. There are other goals: to continue to build her brand, grow the game; Maya will return to China next summer. Recently she talked at a United Way event about early-grade reading. As she does often, she drew from her own life.
“I always talk about my mom,” she said. “I’m not a parent, but I can tell you as a kid who had a parent who was involved in her education that it’s important. … You don’t have to be a super parent, or put all that pressure on yourself. Just do a little bit every day. It’s the little things that make the biggest difference.”
Maya looked over at her mom and smiled.
Maya: “My mom did a lot of little things. Taking time to read to me when I was a little kid, so I could hear the words, hold the book and turn the page. She always did the little things.”
Kathryn: “Even if you don’t know if it will turn into big things.’’