(Note: This is part of an ongoing feature, and if there are any players you want to see chronicled here, let us know in the comments.)
A very common theme appears when you ask lifelong Indiana basketball fans about their fan favorites. Some prefer the quirky ones that made them laugh, some prefer shooters that personified growing up in Indiana, but nearly all can agree on A.J. Moye and everything he represented.
In the years directly after Bob Knight's departure, the balance of the program was very fluid for the first time in decades. With a new coach and an uncertain future, the Hoosier faithful desperately needed a reminder that the ideals of years past hadn't walked out the door alongside Bob Knight. Moye helped to deliver just that, as the extremely undersized forward never made excuses and always seemed to end up in the right place at the right time. While he's mostly remembered for one spectacular play in which he went head to head versus a future NBA All-Star, A.J. Moye's legacy will be fondly looked at as a player who got the most out of his talent.
I. "A-J MOY-E"
Generously listed at 6'3", Moye fit the bill of a combo guard at best. But, the teams he suited up for in Bloomington didn't need another combo guard, it needed a junkyard dog down low who could get in and do the dirty work. Moye took to the role better than anyone could have asked for. One look at his highlight tape (shown below, made with laughably cringeworthy 2006-era-YouTube production value) shows a mix of charges taken, offensive rebounds, hustle plays, and an infectious enthusiasm which rubbed off on everyone.
In a completely unscientific study conducted by yours truly, Moye is unofficially the all-time leader in fist pumps per-minutes played in Hoosier history. Seriously, though. Over half of that video includes Moye on the ground because of one reason or another, and that sums him up better than I ever could.
II. The Block
Any team that makes it to the National Championship game requires a number of things breaking the right way. For the Hoosiers in 2002, the planets aligned on more than one occasion. Nothing shows this better than when #5 seed Indiana met #1 seed Duke in the Sweet 16 in Lexington, Kentucky on March 21st, 2002. Down by 1 in the 2nd half of a game that is now a classic in Hoosier lore, Moye stole the momentum as he took on 6'9", 280 lb All-American Carlos Boozer. Below is our very own Kyle Robbins' artistic interpretation of the famous block, set to Ginuwine's "Pony".
The rest is history as IU completed the upset by a score of 74-73 on their run to the National Championship game. After the game, Moye was short and to the point when asked of his play, saying "I just jumped." Years later, with some time to reflect on what the play truly meant for him, he expanded:
"That's my most treasured basketball moment," Moye said. "That was us saying, 'You guys might be NBA this and you might be all that, but we're a bunch of little scrappy guys and we're about to kick your butt tonight.' He thought he was going to slam that thing down. I went up there with one hand and it was, "Un-uh." (Source)
III. Life After Basketball
Moye was never really on the NBA radar, but did manage a successful career in Europe, with stints in Iceland, Portugal, and most notably, with the Tuebingen team in Germany. However, in 2010, tragedy struck as he suffered a stroke after an on-court collision during practice. His career immediately became an afterthought, and Moye was in a coma for nearly two days.
Thankfully, he has made nearly a full recovery. While his playing career was a casualty of the event, Moye stuck around the game as he coached Oaks Christian High School in California from 2010-2014, leading his team to the Division IV-AA Championship Game in 2014.
Moye was cut from the Bob Knight cloth, and his play fit the Hoosier style perfectly. His career was never defined by the numbers he put up, but as his enduring popularity has shown, his place in Assembly Hall's collective memory is firmly in place.