In our last tribute, Reign of Troy chronicled the legendary career of Cheryl Miller, with the Women of Troy basketball team. As promised, this feature is dedicated to one of Miller’s teammates, another Lady Trojan that left her mark on the basketball world: Cynthia Cooper.
Cynthia Cooper grew up in South Central, Los Angeles, and began her crusade as one of the best female basketball players of all time while she was still a student at Locke High School. There, Cooper led her team to a California State Championship (4A), averaging 31 points per game—and even scoring 45 points in one of them—along the way. Obviously, scholarships came in hoards for Cooper and she, like Cheryl Miller, elected to spend her collegiate years at the University of Southern California.
During her time in Troy Land, Cooper played the guard position and lettered all four years from 1982-1986. She helped lead the Women of Troy to NCAA tournament appearances each year, including three Final Four appearances and back-to-back NCAA titles in 1883 and 1984. After the ’84 season she briefly left ‘SC, but was persuaded to return. She completed her four years of eligibility with USC, though Cooper did not formally graduate. She ended her career with an NCAA appearance in ’86 and a spot on the NCAA Final Four All-Tournament team. Over her career, Cooper score 1,559 points (eighth all-time) 381 assists (fifth all-time) and 256 steals (third all-time). Since her time her, her No. 44 jersey has been retired.
After USC, Cooper also played for Team USA during the 1987 Pan-American Games, and won a gold medal. She would win another one a year later during the 1988 Olympics, and a bronze one in 1992. At 34, Cooper signed on to play in the fairly new WNBA, with the Houston Comets. For three years in a row she led the league in scoring, and brought new life to the Comets’ franchise by leading the team to a record four WNBA Championships. In 1997 and ’98, she was named the MVP in each of those WNBA Finals, and the Women’s Sports Foundation named her the Sports Woman of the Year (in a team category). During the Comets’ reign, Cooper comprised one-third of the triple threat that also included Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson.
When Cooper retired in 2000, she was the first person in WNBA history to score 500, 1000, 2,000 and 2,500 career points. In 16 of her 120 games, she scored 30 or more points and had a 92-game double-figure scoring streak from 1997–2000.
If that’s not balling out of control, I don’t know what is.
In 2011, Cooper was named one of the Top 15 WNBA players of all time. Her legacy at USC dons the walls of the Women’s Locker room, forever reminding later generations of women’s hoopers and fans alike that they too can rise to greatness if they fully maximize their gifts.
So for the years of success that she brought USC women’s hoops, and for helping establish women’s basketball as a legitimate factor, Trojan Nation extends its gratitude.
Fight On Forever, Cynthia Cooper!