Cooper, Cynthia (1963—)
Cooper, Cynthia (1963—)
American basketball player, known for her "raise the roof" gesture, who was named Most Valuable Player during the premiere season of the WNBA. Born April 14, 1963; one of eight children of Mary Cobbs; graduated University of Southern California, 1986.
Named to the NCAA Final Four All-Tournament Team (1986); played for the U.S. in the GoodwillGames (1986, 1990), the World Championship (1986, 1990), and Pan Am Games (1987); played overseas for Segovia in Spain (1986–87); named MVP of the European All-Star Game (1987); played overseas for Alcamo (1994–96), and Parma in Italy (1987–94 and 1996–97); made the 1996 Italian League All-Star Team; over first ten pro seasons, was leading scorer eight times and second leading scorer twice; won the gold medal (1988) and the bronze medal (1992), playing with the U.S. Olympic teams; was leading scorer (37.5 ppg) in the European Cup (1996); signed on with the WNBA's Houston Comets; was voted the WNBA's MVP (1997 and 1998).
Cynthia Cooper did not grace a basketball court until she was 16. A few years later, she was majoring in physical education at the University of Southern California and playing guard on their winning Lady Trojan team that took the NCAA national championships in 1983 and 1984. Cooper made three NCAA Final Four appearances and was named to the 1986 NCAA Final Four All-Tournament Team. Following college, like all top-notch women's basketball college players, Cooper had to find a career overseas, playing professionally in Spain and Italy for the next 13 years. Always close to her mother, Cooper claimed her proudest moment came in 1988 when she won the Olympic gold medal on her mother's birthday, then presented it to her.
In 1997, the inaugural WNBA season, Cooper finally came home, and it was none too soon. Cooper had learned that her mother had breast cancer. Playing for the Houston Comets, with her mother generally in attendance, Cynthia Cooper was unanimously voted the WNBA's Most Valuable Player for the 1997 season. With her expertise and team leadership, Cooper guided her team to the WNBA finals. She then posted a game-high 25 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists in a 65–51 win over the New York Liberty for the WNBA championship on August 30, 1997. In 1998, she scored 23 points over Phoenix to lead her team to its second consecutive title and her second consecutive MVP award; she was the first WNBA player to reach 1,000 career points (July 1998). In 1998, Cooper was honored as Sportswoman of the Year by the Women's Sports Foundation.
Cooper, Cynthia. She Got Game: My Personal Odyssey. Warner, 1999.