For three decades we’ve covered many amazing basketball characters, but some stand above the rest—not only because of their on-court skills (though those are always relevant), but because of how they influenced and continue to influence basketball culture, and thus influenced SLAM. Meanwhile, SLAM has also changed those players’ lives in various ways, as we’ve documented their careers with classic covers, legendary photos, amazing stories, compelling videos and more. 

We compiled a group of individuals (programming note: 30 entries, not 30 people total) who mean something special to SLAM and to our audience. Read the full list here and order your copy of SLAM 248, where this list was originally published, here.

It was very, very simple. Just a pump fake and one dribble to her right. That’s all she needed to win Game 3 of the 2015 WNBA Finals. A pump fake and one dribble to her right gave her all the space required to drill a buzzer-beating three from the top of the key. And that highlight is probably the best way to capture Maya Moore’s greatness. She was always efficient. She was always steady. She was always the closer.  

In 2018, we used Moore’s SLAM 217 cover (and the cover shoot content) to help catapult our women’s basketball coverage. Coming off that shoot starring the prolific winner (four WNBA championships, two Olympic Golds and two NCAA championships), we launched WSLAM, which has now grown to become the best coverage of women’s hoops on every level. 

And what a player to start with. Moore won throughout her entire career. Whether by the eye test or by looking at the stats, her dominance is obvious. This would be a good time to mention how she averaged 18 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists in her eight seasons with the Minnesota Lynx. It’d be appropriate to mention how she won the EuroLeague twice. And here, right here, feels like the correct place to mention how she also won the Liga Femenina de Baloncesto title, the WCBA championship three times and the world championship twice. 

We’re not calling her the GOAT. No, no. No, no, no. We’re just saying we understand those who do bestow that title upon her. Because…damn. That’s a lot of winning. Also, can’t forget the MVP trophy, the five different All-WNBA First Team selections, the WNBA Rookie of the Year award and the Finals MVP nod. Or the game-winners. Or the many on-court highlights that defied logic and all the history of previous WNBA players. We had never seen somebody on the floor like Maya Moore. 

Even off the court, Moore was singular, as she remains to this day. For somebody so utterly dominant and competitive when the bright lights are on, she has consistently been a gentle soul away from the flashbulbs and the cameras. Flip to page 41 of SLAM 217 for evidence. 

“My identity is not being the best basketball player,” Moore told us at the time. “Or even being Black. I mean, I’m a Black woman, and I own that. I try just to do as much as I can to live an authentic life and point people to truth. And being authentic means admitting when I don’t know. And admitting that I could’ve been better. And admitting I want to be better if I can.”

That hunger to be better is a little familiar. It sounds like somebody else who, like Moore, wore 23 on their jersey.

Moore was quickly grabbed up by Jordan Brand after she left UConn. It’s an important part of her story, and it contributed to her being on this list. Having the honor of being the first woman signed to Jordan is a quality illustrator of her greatness. The high standard that Michael set was met by Maya. 

Being associated with the Jumpman, as well as everything else she did on the court, combines for a nearly unquantifiable impact. We have to wait a few more years for young players across the country to get drafted to the W, get asked about who inspired them and hear them all speak about how much Maya Moore means to them. But it’ll happen.

Though Moore’s on-court career ended on August 21, 2018, her impact didn’t. She retired from basketball with a mission. She wanted to help a man named Jonathan Irons get released from prison. With Moore’s assistance, Irons’ wrongful conviction was overturned. Moore and her family advocated for previously concealed evidence in his nonfatal shooting case to be brought before the Missouri courts in 2020. He had spent over 20 years behind bars as an innocent man, and Moore gave up basketball to help him get his life back. Then, in the plot twist of our time, Moore and Irons got married soon after he was released. It’s one hell of a love story. 

So in the end, Moore, one of the greatest ever, hung up her Jordans to live her authentic life.

That SLAM 217 cover story opens  with a wry smile on Moore’s face. On some you-know-how-good-I-am-at-everything kind of energy. Both competitive and gentle. 

Photo via Getty.

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