When it comes to both Maya Moore and Kyrie Irving‘s playing careers, both have long lists of accomplishments and accolades on the basketball court. But off the court, their efforts and accomplishments have been arguably as impressive, with both individuals dedicating their time away from the game to focus on social and racial justice and equality topics, as well as their willingness to give back to others, among other things.
However, the two situations have been handled or viewed differently in the public eye, with Moore receiving more recognition and celebration. In contrast, Irving has received more criticism than praise lately.
Moore stepped away from the Minnesota Lynx in 2019 to focus on social and criminal justice reform. Most recently, she helped her longtime friend and now husband Jonathan Irons get freed from prison after more than 22 years for a crime he didn’t commit, and she was named the 2020 Sports Illustrated Inspiration of the Year for her commitment to social justice.
Moore hasn’t returned to basketball since stepping away a few years ago, and there are still questions as to if she would return in 2021 — or if she ever will — moving forward. She hasn’t ruled out a return while also not committing to retirement heading into the upcoming WNBA season.
When it comes to Irving, he has had a similar impact off the court, including giving back in many ways.
He is a top player in the league and a champion like Moore. Some accomplishments Irving has achieved outside of basketball just in the last year include donating money to feed individuals throughout the country, donating $1.5 million to WNBA players who opted out of the 2020 season played at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., paying off the college tuition for nearly a dozen HBCU students and purchasing a house for the family of George Floyd.
Both Moore and Irving deserve positive recognition for their work, both on the court and especially off of it. But for some reason, there has been a difference in how the public has perceived the two situations. Moore has been celebrated — deservingly so — while Irving has recently been criticized for his efforts away from the game.
Why is that? Why are the two situations viewed so differently, especially with their efforts supporting most of the same causes?
The biggest reason: communication.
In Moore’s case, she has been up-front and honest with the Lynx throughout this entire process, keeping an open line of communication between her and the organization ever since 2019. Minnesota head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve has said multiple times since Moore made her initial announcement to step away that the Lynx and Moore have continued to talk about where Moore is at — and Minnesota is ready to pick up those conversations if and when she is ready to return.
In Irving’s case, that hasn’t been true, and communication has been the biggest issue with his whole situation. A few weeks ago, right around the time of the events at the U.S. Capitol, Irving suddenly disappeared and became unreachable while being listed as out in multiple Nets games due to personal reasons.
At the time, all we knew was that he was out for “personal reasons.” And following news that has been reported lately, the Brooklyn organization knew just about the same as the rest of us. In the first few days of Irving’s absence from the team, Nets head coach Steve Nash admitted he hadn’t really had any communication with Irving about when or if he planned to return.
In the following days, multiple videos surfaced surrounding what Irving was doing away from basketball. He went to a family birthday party, which resulted in him violating the NBA’s health and safety protocol, and he attended a Zoom meeting with a Manhattan District Attorney candidate during a Nets game.
Irving made his return for the first time since Jan. 5 on Tuesday and made his way back on the floor with a new-look Brooklyn team that now features James Harden.
In a Zoom call with media on Tuesday, Irving admitted it is “hard to ignore” what is going on in the world and wants to continue to “make daily change” in the country. He also added he needed to “take a step back” to focus on non-basketball related things the last few weeks.
Irving’s work away from basketball has been somewhat overshadowed by the criticism he has received lately. But the good news for everyone involved is that it appears the communication has picked up and both sides are finally on the same page.
The somewhat similar efforts off the court of both Moore and Irving should be recognized and celebrated. Some could view them as the most impactful accomplishments the two individuals have achieved to this point in their lives. But the way the two situations were handled by the players themselves and the communication shared is what has been the biggest difference.