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Maya Moore has been successful at every stage of her career. Just reading off her list accolades will will test your endurance. A three-time WNBA champion with the Minnesota Lynx, Moore is on a mission to continue building the women’s game. She doesn’t have time for critics or doubters. With the 20th WNBA season kicking off on Saturday, Moore Spoke with SI.com about her season, being part of Jordan Brand and the Rio Olympics.
Jarrel Harris: You recently hosted the second Jordan Brand Classic girls game. Can you talk about that experience?
Maya Moore: Over the past few years, I have been coming to the Jordan Brand Classic, and I remember a couple years ago we were hanging out with MJ and watching the boys national game and some of us in the suite were talking about starting a game up for the girls. So the time was right and the pieces were put in place and I wanted nothing more than to be hands on in the process in influencing the game and making it happen. Just trying to be as present as possible. Also when the girls got here and just having the time to interact with them the whole time, engaging with the athletes, who are really great, they played so hard and gave a fun game to watch. So I'm just glad and hope there is many more to come.
JH: You are a huge role model, so who are some of the players you looked up to growing up?
MM: I loved watching Cynthia Cooper growing up when she played for the Houston Comets. They had great players with Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson. I always mention Janeth Arcain, it was the big three but Janeth was a huge part of the team. So I know my history. I love remembering those days and remembering the women I looked up to. Lisa Leslie of course, and the Sparks had a lot of momentum in the early 2000’s, so it was fun watching those battles with the New York Liberty and Teresa Weatherspoon. Just so many players that I remember watching and admiring. I also had some role models in my family and even in my church family that were role models to me as well. I had a whole package of people to look up to and guide me to where I am today.
JH: What does it mean for you be a part of such a legendary brand with Jordan?
MM: I think there is so many elements of the culture of basketball that Jordan leads in and has been a leader over the years. From Michael’s on court legacy to his work ethic, competitiveness, passion, and leadership. Those are things I feel like everyone that is in the brand has at some level and that is something I try to bring with me everywhere that I go. Whether I am playing here in the U.S. with the WNBA or playing all over the world such as China. It’s been neat to see the worldwide love of not only basketball but just the excitement people have for me being on the brand. It is just exciting to see where the brand can continue to grow on the court and with the performance side of things and also just basketball culture wise.
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JH: What has your preparation and training looked like for the upcoming season?
MM: Just overall efficiency for my offense game. Whether that’s taking the extra moment to slow down and make the right decision, or making sure all of my mechanics and muscle memory from my shots are feeling good. Also, ensuring that my body is strong through the process from nutrition, rest, pre-stretching and post-recovery. Just want to be physically and mentally prepared.
JH: Is that preparation any different knowing the Olympics are just a few months away?
MM: I don’t think my preparation is different. It will probably be more intentional with it being an Olympic year. It’s been four years. I was a 22-year-old in London. I need to continue to be wise, be efficient and prepared for every game that I play leading up to the Olympics.
JH: This is a special year for the WNBA as the league is now in its 20th season, what are you looking forward to the most?
MM: I am looking forward to really getting a chance to think about the 20 years and not just 2016. It gives us a chance to look back and remember the great shoulders we stand on and the great moments that have happened to build up to this 20th season. So it will be fun to celebrate where we been and where are going. So I think there is going to be a lot of exciting around this season. It will be reflected in the quality of the games as our league gets more talented every year.
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JH: How have you seen the WNBA grow and where do you see it going from here?
MM: The league has definitely grown in its depth of talent and athleticism. The speed of the game has picked up greatly and you’ve just got players that are even more versatile than ever before on the court. You have post players that are bringing the ball up the court, doing guard-like things and shooting threes. There are also tougher matchups now with the versatility of the players and how the game has evolved. I think the game is going to continue to move in this direction where you see players being able to do more on the court—whether that’s just in different styles of scoring or ways people score. At the same time, I see the game continuing to be about the fundamentals such as moving the ball, playing the team ball and competing hard.
JH: As defending champs, what are you most looking forward to at Rio?
MM: I’m most looking forward to experiencing the culture of Rio. From the energy of the Olympic crowd to the celebratory feel of the Brazilian culture, I expect nothing less than an exciting and unforgettable 2016 event.