Today is Day 23 of the Omer. Gevurah sheb’netzach. Power that comes from victory.
If Day 23 were just about victory (netzach), Maya Moore would be a perfectly defensible selection. In 2017, Sports Illustrated called her “the greatest winner in the history of women’s basketball.” It is tough to argue with that. In high school, she was named an All-American, Player of the Year, and Athlete of the Year. She won three state titles and a national title, while losing a total of three games. In college, she won two national titles and lost a total of four games. She remains the only three-time winner of the Wade Trophy, which is awarded to the best player in women’s college basketball. So she did not win the award one year?! Well yes, but freshman are not eligible for the Wade Trophy. So she won it every year that she could.
All of that would make for a pretty nice career, but Moore was just getting started. She went on to be the #1 pick in the 2011 WNBA draft. Over her eight seasons in the league, she won four titles, made six All-star games (she won MVP in half of those), and won a regular season MVP. She also won two Olympic gold medals and a handful of titles overseas during her “off-seasons.”
So you could do worse than Maya Moore when selecting someone who embodies victory. But it is her power and strength (gevurah) that make her an apt choice for Day 23. Not the power and strength she played with (there was plenty of that), but the power and strength she displayed when she stepped away from basketball at the peak of her powers to pursue criminal justice reform. She has already committed one year, and just recently announced that she would commit another, to fighting prosecutorial misconduct and working to undo wrongful convictions like that of Jonathan Irons. Here are a few videos about her decision and her advocacy:
In March of this year, a Missouri judge overturned Mr. Irons’s conviction. Just four days ago, an appeals court upheld that decision and gave the State ten days to decide whether to retry him. No matter the State’s decision, Mr. Irons now has a very good chance of ending the nightmare that began when he was just 16 years old and has lasted the past 23 years.
Estimates of the number of innocent people in American prisons range from 46,000 to 230,000. Innocence can be incredibly difficult to establish in a system where prosecutors and judges are often more interested in finality than in justice. It is hard to imagine Mr. Irons’s case receiving the attention and the careful review it has without Maya Moore’s advocacy. Moore was on a path to becoming perhaps the greatest women’s basketball player of all time, and she gave that up to help others and to lend her voice to those who are so often ignored. Doing so took a level of power and strength that is rare, not just in basketball but in our society.
The greatest basketball player to wear the number 23? You can’t go wrong with Jordan or LeBron. But Maya Moore has shown that greatness can, and should, encompass so much more than what one does on the court.
Today’s guest post was written by Cousin Ben.