Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

Cynthia Cooper: The WNBA’s First MVP

Posted on July 03, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Cynthia Cooper

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month for July stole the show during the first year of the WNBA in 1997 and helped create the first dynasty in the women’s basketball league.

Despite having a number of younger stars like Lisa Leslie, Rebecca Lobo and Sheryl Swoopes in the league, Cynthia Cooper stole the show in the early years of the WNBA as she was the league MVP during the first two seasons and helped lead the Houston Comets to the first four league titles.

An All-American collegiate player at the University of Southern California from 1982-86, Cooper helped lead the Trojans to a pair of NCAA Championships and a 114-15 record during her four season. She also was a member of the U.S. Olympic team that won the gold medal in 1988 and the bronze in 1992.

After playing overseas for a decade, Cooper joined the fledgling WNBA in 1997. Though much of the focus was on some of the younger stars, Cooper showed that even at age 34 she was still one of the best female basketball players in the game.

Teaming with Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson to give the Houston Comets the WNBA’s first dominant trio of stars, Cooper was the regular season MVP during each of the first two WNBA seasons.

Houston won the first four WNBA Championships with Cooper earning playoff MVP honors each all four years.

She retired following the 2000 campaign, but briefly returned to the league in 2003.

Cooper became the women’s basketball coach at Prairie View A&M and in 2010 became coach at UNC-Wilmington.

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