When WNBA President Laurel Richie walked to the podium on Thursday night to give Maya Moore the league’s Most Valuable Player Award, there was silence.
So Moore, wearing her game uniform, knee pads, elbow sleeves and ankle braces, started clapping, gesturing for others to join in. She called her coach, Cheryl Reeve, onstage to pose for photos.
She thanked all of her teammates, and said she felt “awkward” accepting an individual award with her team about to begin the playoffs.
If Moore didn’t exist, the league would invent her.
So what was this driven, unselfish person like as a child?
“There are always challenges raising any kid,” said her mother, Kathryn Moore, who watched the news conference from the front row. “Nothing is ever easy, raising children. You’re always going to have issues and challenges. She was always so energetic, you have to channel that energy in a constructive way, otherwise, who knows what can happen?”
Yes, who knows? You can see Kathryn scolding Maya as a child, telling her she must stop refolding the laundry, that she may shoot only 300 three-pointers before dinner.
Moore has excelled as a student, athlete, teammate and public figure all her life. She also chose a profession in which expectations compound. The more she achieves, the more she will be expected to achieve.
Which brings us to the game that followed the news conference, when the defending champion Lynx survived a fourth-quarter challenge from San Antonio, before Seimone Augustus’ shooting and Moore’s clinching free throws gave Minnesota an 88-84 victory.
Moore tried to keep it from becoming close. Late in the first quarter, she leapt high to tip away an entry pass. The ball moved from Monica Wright to Lindsay Whalen, who waited and flipped an underhand pass toward the rim. Moore, sprinting down the right side, caught it and flipped in a layup.
San Antonio cut the lead to five points late in the second quarter. Then Moore hit a three-pointer and two jumpers to stretch the lead to 11, and later she threw a no-look pass to Rebekkah Brunson to give the Lynx a 10-point halftime lead.
In the third quarter, she took another feed from Whalen for a one-hand catch-and-layin on the break. In the fourth, she blocked a key shot down the stretch and hit the two free throws that averted disaster.
Moore finished with 26 points, seven assists, six rebounds and two blocks, then took the mic and thanked the fans at Target Center. The whole night felt like an extended award ceremony. Kind of like her life.
At the news conference, after posing for photos, Moore headed toward the locker room, reaching back to grasp her mother’s elbow.
“She was always a very, very hard worker,” Kathryn said. “And she’s always been personable and team-oriented.”
Growing up in Jefferson City, Mo., Maya was so energetic that having her play sports “was an easy decision,” Kathryn said. “It was just a natural element of who she was. She was always athletic. She tried a lot of different sports. Basketball clicked.” The basketball world should give thanks. Moore is on her way to becoming one of the winningest, and classiest, athletes of her generation.
Her team won four Georgia high school titles, and she was named the national player of the year.
At UConn, her teams won two national titles and she was named the national player of the year.
The Lynx chose her with the first pick in the 2011 draft, and she led all rookies in scoring and helped the Lynx win a title. After a loss in the finals in 2012, Moore was the finals MVP as Minnesota won another title in 2013. She also led Team USA to gold at the London Olympics.
Thursday night, she raised another piece of hardware.
“I’m very proud of her,” Kathryn said. “To be recognized for all of her efforts and contributions is wonderful.”
Like her daughter, Kathryn Moore didn’t sound overwhelmed. It’s almost as if she’s used to this.