A lifetime went into that second, a lifetime of playground dribbles and daydreams and deep-sleep dreams and shooting drills and practice scenarios. It is a moment every basketball player rehearses and few live.
Maya Moore caught the inbounds pass from Lindsay Whalen, dribbled once to her right, elevated, released, held her follow-through and landed, splay-legged, looking certain that she had won a WNBA Finals game.
She was right. She had mimicked Michael Jordan, beating a lanky defender in Indianapolis with a game-winning postseason jump shot from the top of the key. She had bettered Michael in the wake of her big moment by embracing her teammates instead of running from them.
The shot would be replayed, tweeted, Instagrammed, Vined, and explicated with the written word. It would reach intensely interested celebrities from Prince to LeBron at the speed of light. It would prove the pivotal moment in a feisty series that Moore’s Lynx would win, giving her three WNBA titles to add to a collection of awards that would fill a pyramid.
That shot seemed rare because of its drama and importance, but also because Moore so rarely has required dramatics. She usually wins going away.
This story is about her latest achievement. Moore, the star forward for the Lynx, is the 2015 Star Tribune Sportsperson of the Year.
Moore is playing in China this winter. She responded to a list of questions with an audio file. One question: Does she consider herself the best player in the world?
‘‘There are days when I feel like the best player in the world, and there are moments when I don’t,’’ she said. ‘‘I don’t know if there’s a way to measure that in basketball. I strive to be the best I can be, and I’m definitely aware that I’ve got unique talents and I’ve had unique opportunities to put myself in that category.’’
Like her teammates, Moore has embraced the demands of her sport and the role of ambassador required in a league whose fandom is more notable for its enthusiasm than its large population.
She is the modern do-it-all-superstar. Moore, 26, will dominate the game, make the big shot, dance on the court for the fans, sign hundreds of autographs and praise her teammates.
Being Sportsperson of the Year is supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime achievement. What’s most remarkable about Moore is that the performance that won this award was not out of the ordinary for her. Moore could have been someone’s Sportsperson of the Year pretty much any year, any place she’s played.
She started for four years at Collins Hill High in Georgia. Her team’s record: 125-3. She won three state prep championships. She won two national Prep Player of the Year awards.
At Connecticut, she played on two undefeated national championship teams and won two Wooden Awards as the nation’s best player. She became the only sophomore to win the award.
After the Lynx made her the first pick in the 2011 draft, she won the Rookie of the Year award and helped the Lynx to their first WNBA title.
She was the 2013 Finals MVP when the Lynx won their second title. She was the league MVP in 2014. Last season, she was the All-Star Game MVP and helped the Lynx to their third title in five years.
She won a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics, has won a title in Europe and three in China.
‘‘One of the awards that I probably appreciate the most goes back to college and the John Wooden awards,’’ Moore said. ‘‘Just because of the man behind the award and his character.’’
In Moore, the Twin Cities is playing host to perhaps the best in the world at what she does. Prince was (or is) the best in his niche. Kevin Garnett, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau have won MVP awards. Adrian Peterson might be the best running back of his era.
Moore is not only of their ilk, she is even more successful in her sport.
Before she joined the Lynx, the franchise had existed for 12 seasons. In 10 of those the Lynx did not make the playoffs. In the other two the Lynx reached the playoffs and lost in the first round.
Since Moore arrived, the Lynx have won three WNBA titles and 11 playoff series in five years.
Before this season, her career lacked only one thing: that last-second, big-game, game-winning shot worthy of a poster (or Vine).
The Lynx and Indiana were tied at 77-77 in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals. Lynx point guard Lindsay Whalen was inbounding the ball from the right side of the court.
Moore cut from the far side of the court toward Whalen but initially couldn’t get past Indiana’s Marissa Coleman.
There were 1.7 seconds remaining. Moore cut behind Coleman and took Whalen’s pass to the left of the top of the key. Coleman closed in. Moore pump-faked, getting Coleman briefly in the air, and took one dribble to her right.
Moore had fiddled with her shot all season. She later admitted that she hadn’t made a last-second, game-winning shot since she played AAU ball.
The play wasn’t even designed to go to her. Coach Cheryl Reeve designed a play that would get the ball to post Sylvia Fowles.
‘‘That didn’t work out,’’ Moore said. ‘‘They had a lot of coverage on Syl down low, so I wound up getting the ball at the top of the key. I knew I had 1.7 seconds left. I pump-faked and took one dribble and let it go.
‘‘When it went in, I remember how eerie it was in the arena. It was so quiet, 16,000 people just going silent. I was snapped back into reality when Rebekkah Brunson gave me a huge hug, and then the rest of the starting five got there. It was an awesome moment — ‘Wow, what just happened?’ ’’
The Lynx went on to win their third title, more than any mainstream Minnesota professional sports team since the Minneapolis Lakers.
‘‘We joke — Lindsay, Seimone Augustus and B [Brunson] — about how many more years we might be able to compete together,’’ Moore said.
‘‘My fellow captains are several years older than I am. We try to savor every moment together, knowing whether we win another championship or not we enjoy each other so much and we leave it on the court every day.
‘‘There have been no regrets during my time with the Lynx.’’