Babcock-McGraw: Maya Moore's grandparents back her every step of the way
Having just walked through the door for his long-awaited visit, Grandpa Bob from Chicago could barely get his coat off before he was being pulled back outside.
A young Maya Moore, a grade schooler living with her mother in Missouri at the time, had her basketball ready.
"She'd say, 'Let's go play some ball, Grandpa,'" recounted Grandma Petrina Moore.
"And she didn't like to lose," Bob Moore added with a laugh.
Maya Moore, the most valuable player of the WNBA last season, hasn't lost often over her basketball career, not to Grandpa and not to the best players in the world.
Moore is one of the best female basketball players of all time. A prep sensation out of suburban Atlanta, a two-time NCAA champion at Connecticut and a two-time WNBA champion with the Minnesota Lynx, Moore has won everywhere she has gone.
And her grandparents, who were both longtime educators in the Chicago public school system, raised Moore's mother Kathryn in Chicago and are now living in a retirement community in Lombard, have watched adoringly every step of the way. Maya Moore is Bob and Petrina's only grandchild, so much of their free time is spent following her career.
They were at Allstate Arena in Rosemont last week to watch Maya take on the Chicago Sky in a battle of two of the best teams in the WNBA. It was one of those rare losses for Maya (who finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists), so Bob and Petrina were planning to drive up to Minneapolis on Friday, eager to watch the rematch between the Sky and the Lynx.
"We go to games whenever we can," said Bob Moore, a former Chicago Public Schools administrator. "Whenever she comes to Chicago to play the Sky, we're there. We go to see her when she plays in Indianapolis against the Indiana Fever."
"And we'll go to Minnesota four or five times a season," added Petrina Moore, a grade-school teacher in the Chicago Public Schools for 48 years, 38 of which were spent as a kindergarten teacher. "When we can't get to a game, we make sure to watch it on TV or online."
When Maya Moore was in college playing for perennial power Connecticut, the Moores would travel all over the country to watch her play. They went to multiple Final Fours, where they saw Maya dominate and win the most outstanding player award.
They also followed her to London in 2012 to watch her help the U.S. women's team win the Olympic gold medal.
But one of their favorite Maya games came in a small gym on the north side of Chicago. Connecticut was in town to play DePaul.
"It was a great game, a close game and Connecticut was losing with about 30 seconds left," Bob Moore said. "And then Maya woke up and turned the whole thing around for Connecticut. She stole the ball and made the game-winning shot with about two seconds left.
"We were in the stands loving it."
Maya Moore feels the same way about her grandparents' extraordinary support. She loves it, and knows she's very lucky.
"They were always just very supportive of anything I did," Moore said after last week's game at Allstate Arena. "They just always made sure that I knew that I was supported and loved. They do such a good job of just physically being present around the people they care for, and not just me, which is so amazing. They make a conscious effort to be a part of people's lives and I'm really, really blessed for them to be healthy and to be able to come to my games, at age 86 (Bob) and 87 (Petrina)."
Bob and Petrina Moore, married now for 63 years, have no plans to slow down. And they are out recruiting new Maya Moore fans every chance they get.
Around their Beacon Hill retirement community, they wear lanyards around their necks that feature laminated pictures of Maya in her basketball uniform.
"The people around here go bananas for Maya when they see her play on TV," said Bob, who also makes sure to tell his friends about what a good student Maya was in college (4.0 grade-point average), and how she used to shine in the church choir. "They think she's just outstanding. And, I might be a little biased, but I agree."
Petrina Moore, a deeply religious woman who met Bob at church and encouraged daughter Kathryn and Maya to put a high priority on church and Christian values, put her thoughts on Maya into a context she can relate to.
"Maya is a gift from God," Petrina said. "I mean, we all are, of course, but from a young age, for Maya to have accomplished all that she has accomplished in life and in sports, we just feel that she is a really special gift from God."
Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw