Lynx Star Maya Moore Discusses Her Recent Article on WNBA Visibility by Offering Some Suggestions
WASHINGTON – The lights are on Maya Moore. She knows it. Maybe it explains why she speaks in measured and balanced tones when challenging colleagues, reporters, and as usual, herself.
The reigning WNBA Most Valuable Player and dazzling 25-year-old Minnesota Lynx veteran guard wrote an in-depth first-person story for the Players Tribune magazine in April about the lack of visibility for the league, overseas struggles and women’s basketball in general.
In addition to bringing the issues out in the open, Moore offered solutions and suggestions for enhancing the sport during an exclusive discussion with Womhoops Guru (this blog, not the Guru himself) on Wednesday when the Lynx played the Mystics in a preseason game.
A caring, personable ambassador, Moore’s motivation was simple.
“It was a natural conversation of the realities of our sport,” Moore said while standing with ice bags on both knees and an ankle in the bowels of the Verizon Center following the Lynx’s 89-63 loss to the Mystics in their preseason opener.
“It was a great opportunity to expose some of the inner struggles that we go through as players, where we are in our sports culture and how great we can be. I just challenge us as a sports culture to match the reality because there’s a want and a demand for our game. When it’s met, the game grows and it’s exciting. That’s what I experienced as a kid.”
One of the biggest struggles for many WNBA players is spending a majority of the calendar year overseas where money is, in most cases, much more plentiful than what the league can offer. Players have the ability to make three-to-four times more in salary earnings while playing thousands of miles away from friends and loved ones.
“There’s no league like the WNBA,” Moore said. “It’s a tough and an unfortunate reality of playing overseas. There are pros and cons to our situation. The biggest con is that it’s not really a choice. I mean there is a choice, you don’t have to go, but if you want to get paid closer to your value and maximize your value as far as your occupation, then you want to take some of those overseas options.
“I believe that it’s something that can change as we continue to expose our craft, get more eyes, more support and excitement around our sport. It’s hard being away from family, friends and your community in another culture.
"I am the only westerner on my team in China. There are times where I’ve moved three to four times a year. You’re basically living out of a suitcase. There are challenges, but you have to rise above it, be a good teammate, and somehow find a way to win. It’s an adventure for sure.”
The WNBA is awesome with elite women performing at a ridiculously high level. One of Moore’s points is despite the solid product it’s still difficult to get people to pay attention.
Last season the WNBA experienced attendance growth and strong television ratings.
According to Sports Media Watch, the 2014 WNBA Finals series between the Phoenix Mercury and Chicago Sky was the most-watched series since 2006.
A ruthless scorer who traumatized defenders with a mesmerizing quick first step and a buffet of offensive moves, Moore was the leading lady in all of the excitement last season. She enjoyed a year for the ages.
She averaged career-highs in points (23.9, which led the league) and rebounds (8.1, eighth overall).
Moore also became the first player in league history to post four consecutive games of 30 or more points. She finished the regular season with a league-record 12 games of 30-plus points, topping the previous mark of 10 set by Diana Taurasi, another former UConn great, like Moore, in 2008.
While the media coverage has been adequate, Moore believes it can be enhanced.
One great thing that has helped the visibility was having State Farm include Sue “Summer” Bird into its popular assisting commercials alongside Chris Paul, Steph Curry, and Damian Lillard. Moore appeared in Derek Jeter’s iconic hat-tip tribute commercial during last year’s MLB All-Star Game.
In 2013, she drew attention starring in the Pepsi Max-Kyrie Irving third installment of Uncle Drew featuring Drew's old buddy & point guard “Lights” and his lady Betty Lou, who was played by Moore.
“They can help by really diving into the game,” Moore said of the media. “They can learn more about the players and what makes the game great, beautiful and artistically creative. They can also get to know some of the deeper parts of the players’ experience overseas, here in the states or in their communities. There are a lot of great competitors and great games to talk about.”
Entering its 19th season, the WNBA is stronger than ever despite some off-season turbulence that included married couple Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson being arrested in a domestic dispute and suspended seven games by WNBA President Laurel Richie. Johnson is currently appealing her suspension.
Taurasi is being paid by her Russian pro team to sit out this summer instead of playing with Phoenix, though the All-Star, who says her body needs rest from the year-round pace, plans to return next year to play in both the Olympics and WNBA.
Isiah Thomas was hired as president of the New York Liberty despite a past history of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment with the NBA Knicks at MSG, the umbrella organization over the Knicks and NHL Rangers as well. It was a decision that created plenty of controversy and media attention as 15 television cameras attended the Liberty’s media day.
Arguably the face of league besides being the first woman to be a Jordan-brand representative, Moore is one of the reasons the WNBA is fun and must-see television.
A strong rookie class entered the league headlined by Seattle’s duo of Kalena Mosqueda-Lewis and Jewell Loyd, who has the athleticism and game to be compared to Moore by the time her career is finished, and Tulsa’s Amanda Zauhi B. Of course, Skylar Diggins, Tamika Catchings and a healthy Elena Delle Donne return this summer as well. The Mystics could enjoy a breakthrough with their high-flying and fun style of play.
Moore wasn’t frustrated by the negative offseason headlines.
“Anytime you’re dealing with humanity, you’re going to have drama,” Moore said. “It’s always unfortunate when bad things happen and negative situations arise. I mean, some things do need to be discussed.
"At the same time, there are so many great and awesome things to talk about in our league. It’s an unfortunate bump in the road for the league because we all represent the WNBA whether we like it or not. As a league, we have to continue to move forward, be positive role models in the community and continue to learn from each other.”
The discussion eventually turned to the upcoming season where Moore and her Lynx squad enter as one of the favorites to capture the WNBA title.
The Lnyx have a quartet of talented players, including fellow Olympians Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus. Monica Wright and Rebekkah Brunson also return to provide quality experience and depth for the Lynx, which have won at least 25 games in each of the last four seasons, the first team to accomplish that in WNBA history.
Minnesota lost in an epic three-game Western Conference final series to eventual league champion Phoenix. While Moore was sensational against the Mercury, that bitter defeat has added an extra layer of motivation to Moore’s preparation for this season.
“I am always hungry,” Moore said. “There hasn’t been a season where I haven’t been hungry. That’s where I live.
"If I am not passionate or hungry for a win, then I need to stop playing. This season will have its own challenges. I am always going to play hard because that’s what I hang my hat on.
"I also want to be more efficient and more deadly. Some of those older players are more efficient and they get you in those subtle ways. I just want to be effective at a higher level. I have great players around me once again. It’s going to be a fun time and I am looking forward to that.”
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