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Cynthia Cooper

A photo of Cynthia Cooper.

Cynthia Lynne Cooper-Dyke (born April 14, 1963 in Chicago, Illinois) is an American former basketball player who has won championships in college, the Olympics, and in the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). She is considered by many as one of the greatest women's basketball players ever.[1] She played for the Houston Comets from 1997–2000 and again in 2003.


Although born in Chicago, Illinois, Cooper grew up in South Central Los Angeles, California. Cooper is the daughter of Mary and Kenny Cooper. Her father left the family when she was only six years old, leaving her mother to raise eight children.[2]

She was married to Brian Dyke in 2000. Cynthia is a mother to twins, a son, Brian Jr., and a daughter, Cyan, born June 15, 2002.

In 2000, she published her autobiography, entitled She Got Game: My Personal Odyssey, which covered her childhood, her basketball career up to that time, and her mother's battle with breast cancer.

A noted disciplinarian, Cooper has long been well-known for understanding rules.

High school years[]

She attended Locke High School before enrolling at the University of Southern California. Cooper participated athletically in both track and field as well as basketball. She lead her team to the California State Championship (4A) scoring an average of 31 points per game, and scoring 45 points in one game. Cooper was named the Los Angeles Player of the Year.[2]

College years[]

Cooper was a four-year letter winner at guard for USC from 1982–1986. She led the Women of Troy to NCAA appearances in all four years, Final Four appearances in three of her four years, and back-to-back NCAA tournament titles in 1983 and 1984.[2] After the 1984 Championship, she briefly left school, but was persuaded to return. She completed fours years with USC, although she did not graduate.[3] Cooper closed out her collegiate career with an appearance in the 1986 NCAA tournament championship game and a spot on the NCAA Final Four All-Tournament Team.Cooper ranks eighth on USC's all-time scoring list with 1,559 points, fifth in assists (381) and third in steals (256). While Cooper was at USC, the Lady Trojans compiled a record of 114–15.[2]

USA basketball career[]

Cooper played for USA Basketball as part of the 1987 USA Women's Pan American Team which won a gold medal in Indianapolis, Indiana. Cooper was a member of the gold medalist 1988 US Olympic Women's Basketball Team.,[4] and the Bronze Medal team in 1992.[5]

International Career[]

Cooper played for several teams in the European leagues:[2]

  • Segovia (Spain) 1986–1987
  • Parma (Italy) 1987–1994
  • Alcamo (Italy) 1994–1996

During the ten years she played in the Italian leagues, she was the leagues leading scorer eight times, and finished second the other two years.[2]

In 1987, she was the MVP of the European All-Star team. She was also named to the Al-Star team of the Italian leagues in 1996–1997.[2]

WNBA career[]

Cooper was voted the WNBA's MVP in 1997 and 1998 and also won four WNBA Championships with the Houston Comets. She was named Most Valuable Player in each of those WNBA Finals. Cooper was named the 1998 Sportswoman of the Year (in the team category) by the Women's Sports Foundation.[6] During the Comet dynasty, she was a vital part of the triple threat offense with Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson. When retired in 2000, Cooper became the first player in WNBA history to score 500, 1,000, 2,000, and 2,500 career points. She scored 30 or more points in 16 of her 120 games and had a 92-game double-figure scoring streak from 1997–2000. She went on to coach the Phoenix Mercury for one and a half seasons.

Cooper returned as an active player in the 2003 season, but announced her final retirement from professional basketball in 2004. Her appearance in the game, as a 40-year-old, made her the oldest player, at the time, to play in a WNBA game.[2]

Afterward, she served as a TV analyst and halftime reporter for the Houston Rockets of the NBA.

College coaching career[]

In May 2005, Cooper was named the Head Coach of the women's basketball team at Prairie View A&M University.

Cooper's impact at Prairie View was immediate. In just her second season, Cooper led the underdog Panthers to the SWAC tournament title, netting the school its first-ever Women's NCAA Tournament bid.

In January 2008, the NCAA penalized Prairie View for NCAA rules violations committed by Cooper, reducing the number of scholarships for the team. The school was placed on four years' probation for "major violations" in 2005–2006 that ranged from Cooper-Dyke giving players small amounts of cash to various forms of unauthorized practices.[7] Cooper also gave players free tickets to Comets game, which is another NCAA infraction.

On May 10, 2010, she was announced as the next Head Coach of the UNC Wilmington Seahawks Women's Basketball team.[8]

Halls of Fame[]

Cooper-Dyke was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.[9] She was also announced as a member of the 2010 induction class of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and will be formally inducted on August 13.[10]


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External links[]

Preceded by
Cheryl Miller
Phoenix Mercury Head Coach
Succeeded by
Linda Sharp


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