Three current and former UConn women’s basketball players took home honors from the 2021 ESPYs on Saturday night.
Maya Moore was honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, given to reflect the spirit of Ashe to those “possessing strength in the face of adversity, courage in the face of peril and the willingness to stand up for their beliefs no matter what the cost.”
Moore received the award after she stepped away from her basketball career in order to fight for criminal justice reform and specifically helped free Jonathan Irons, who spent 22 years behind bars on a wrongful conviction.
“Jonathan, I’m just so happy for you. Y’all, let’s just say hallelujah, first of all, that Jonathan is sitting here right now,” Moore said. “I don’t ever want that to get old, just the miracle of your life and who you are.”
Moore also used her speech to highlight Win with Justice, her social action platform, and spoke of the sacrifice she made in stepping away from basketball.
“These sacrifices we make in sports are great, but I would invite you to see them as just pointers to the sacrifices of life that matter most, the ones that are centered around helping each other live to the fullest,” she said.
Paige Bueckers won the award for Best Women’s College Athlete, just the latest piece of hardware for the rising sophomore. After being named national player of the year by the AP, Naismith Trophy, USBWA, Wooden Award, co-freshman of the year by the USWBA and WBCA as well as a First Team All-American by the AP, Wooden, USBWA, WBCA following the greatest freshman season ever in women’s college basketball.
During her acceptance speech, Bueckers acknowledged that she’s “a white woman in a Black-led sport” and pushed for more coverage of Black women’s basketball players, who do not receive a proportional amount of coverage as white women’s basketball players despite making up a larger percentage of the WNBA.
“Sports media holds the key to storylines. Sports media and sponsors tell us who is valuable and you’ve told the world I matter today. Everyone who voted, thank you, but I think we should use this power together to also celebrate Black women,” Bueckers said. “To Maria Taylor, Robin Roberts, Maya Moore, Odyssey Alexander, to all the incredible Black women in my life, on my teams to Breonna Taylor and all the lives lost, and to those names who I’ve not yet learned, but I hope to share, I stand behind you and I continue to follow you and follow your lead and fight for you guys.”
Afterwards, Bueckers explained that after receiving so much media attention over the last few years, she wanted to “share the light.”
Meanwhile, Breanna Stewart took home Best WNBA Player after leading the Seattle Storm to the WNBA championship last year, where she earned finals MVP honors.