Web Editor Associate | Twitter
Lynx forward Maya Moore will be celebrating her 26th birthday on Thursday night when her team takes on the Seattle Storm at Target Center. It’s going to be a special birthday for Moore, more so now that she has a special friend to celebrate with.
14 year-old Ariya Smith was invited by Moore, as part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, to come to Minnesota and celebrate Moore’s birthday with her. Smith was thrilled about the opportunity to finally meet Moore.
After meeting her early Wednesday morning, Smith got to join Moore and the Lynx for practice, which included participating in some of the team’s drills; Moore was impressed.
“Just coming out, shooting pretty well and then her answer when [coach] Reeve put her on the spot immediately after the circle started makes me pretty confident that she’ll be a great little player.”
After practice, Smith, joined by Moore and head coach Cheryl Reeve, was introduced at a press conference where her happiness and excitement left her at a loss for words.
“I’ve just been watching her since she was at Connecticut,” Smith said. “Now to finally get to meet her, I mean like, oh my-gosh. I’m speechless.”
When asked why Moore was her favorite player, Smith’s answer was short and to the point.
“Because she’s like Michael Jordan.”
Very high praise for the reigning WNBA MVP. And the recognition didn’t end there.
Reeve took a moment during the press conference to praise Moore, not only for the player that she is, but more importantly, for the person and the role-model that she is.
“I don’t know that Ariya could have found a better role-model or somebody to look up to than Maya Moore,” Reeve said. “Maya Moore gets that it’s so much more than basketball.”
Reeve is right; Moore does recognize that it’s bigger than basketball and that’s something she made sure to emphasize to everyone.
“Just to kind of take a minute and remember kind of the bigger picture of sports and the awesome things that we can do through sports and the community of basketball,” Moore said. “And the impact we can have on each other. Not only the impact that we can have on Ariya, but the impact Ariya can have on us which is keeping us motivated and grateful and excited to see her excitement.”
Moore and Smith will have the chance to spend the day together tomorrow before heading to the game together tomorrow night.
Smith was asked what she’s most looking forward to tomorrow and, like a true Lynx fan and a true Maya Moore fan, Smith answered, “Watching them beat Seattle.”
Fans can hear more about Smith’s story and watch Moore and Smith’s amazing time together when ESPN’s My Wish: Maya Moore story airs on Sportscenter during the week of July 19th.
-Reeve said that center Asjha Jones participated in her first full practice on Wednesday.
“It was a good day for her to be in,” Reeve said. “We got a lot of stuff done and we got the big picture of, kind of what we’re about. She has a veteran presence about her and there’s just no substitute for experience and the things that she brings. So we’ll be cautious, for sure, but I’m excited.”
-Guard Monica Wright did not participate in practice on Wednesday.
“Monica did not (participate), well nothing on the court with us,” Reeve said. “She’s progressing, but we’re going to be cautious there.”