Cynthia Cooper life and biography

Cynthia Cooper picture, image, poster

Cynthia Cooper biography

Date of birth : 1963-04-14
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Chicago, Illinois, USA
Nationality : American
Category : Sports
Last modified : 2010-07-08
Credited as : Basketball player WNBA, ,

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Cynthia Cooper (also known as: Cynthia Lynne Cooper, Cynthia Ferrell), born April 14, 1963 in Chicago, Illinois, United States is an African-American basketball player.

After spending many years in the wilderness of women's basketball, Cynthia Cooper rocketed to fame in the first season of the new Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) that began play in 1997. She lived up to her reputation as a hot scorer, established over a decade of play on the European circuit, by winning the scoring title, while also leading her team, the Houston Comets, to the first WNBA championship title. "She is absolutely one of the best players in the world right now," fellow Comet player Wanda Guyton told the Houston Chronicle late in the 1997 season. These accolades were echoed by an opponent, New York Liberty guard Vickie Johnson, who in Sports Illustrated called Cooper "the best all- around player I've ever faced."

Running was Cooper's favorite athletic endeavor as a young teenager growing up in the tough Watts section of Los Angeles, where her mother had to make numerous sacrifices to raise eight children. She starred on her school track team, one season winning the city championship in the 300-meter hurdles. Then, at the age of 16, after witnessing some students playing basketball, she changed her athletic focus. "I just happened to be in the gym at my junior high school one day and saw this older girl come down the court, put the ball behind her back from her left to her right hand and then make a lay-up," she told Johnette Howard in Sports Illustrated. "Up until then I had run track. But just like that I said, 'Oooh. Wow. I want to play like that someday.'"

After joining her school team Cooper advanced her talent quickly, and in her senior year was granted a sports scholarship to the University of Southern California at Los Angeles, a basketball powerhouse. While playing well there, she was relegated to a largely supporting role on a team featuring the star players Cheryl Miller and the McGee twins, Pam and Paula, during the school's successful run to the 1983 and 1984 National College Athletic Association (NCAA) championship titles. By 1986 Cooper had become more prominent on the team, and that season was named to the NCAA Final Four All-Tourney team. But she still didn't feel that she had tapped her full potential as a player. As she told Howard, "I never felt like I had given all I was capable of giving to one of my teams. I was always the sort of player who was asked to pass the ball to the marquee players and set picks, run the fast break. My role might be to come into the game to be a defensive stopper, or a spark plug. But all along, I told myself, 'This is not my game. This is not who I am as a basketball player. And this is not all I can do.'"

After leaving college, Cooper desired to continue playing but had no opportunity to do so in the U.S., where no professional league existed. She took her skills across the Atlantic Ocean to play in the European league, first with the Segovia team in Spain in 1986, and then with the Parma and Alcamo teams in Italy from 1987 through 1996. While playing abroad Cooper changed her game plan. "I wanted to be one of those players who took the clutch shots and carried teams on their shoulders," she told Sports Illustrated. Her new resolve paid off, as she led the European league in scoring eight times during her first decade overseas and was runner-up the other two seasons. During her career there she built a reputation as a reliable scorer, which reached its peak with an impressive 35.5 points-per-game average for Alcamo during the 1995-96 campaign. Cooper was especially potent in high-pressure games, confirmed by her 37.5 points-per-game barrage in the 1996 European Cup. She also proved herself dangerous from long range, twice winning a three- point shooting contest in the European League.

Cooper's only visibility to American audiences during her expatriate playing days came when she returned to the states as a member of the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic women's team in 1988 and bronze-medal winner in 1992. According to a Houston Comets publicity release, one of the highlights of her career was when she presented her Olympic gold medal to her mother, Mary Cobbs, on her mother's birthday in 1988.

Increasing interest in women's college basketball in the U.S. during Cooper's playing years in Europe helped spur the creation of another professional women's league in 1997 that easily enticed Cooper to return to her native country. Past attempts to create such a league had been unsuccessful because the fan base was too low, but optimism was high this time around. When the Women's National Basketball Association was launched in 1997, Cooper was drafted by the Houston Comets, bringing with her a reputation as a scorer established in European play.

Her first season in the WNBA started slowly, but soon Cooper's shooting slump ended thanks to her practice regimen of some 300 to 500 practice shots a day. Her confidence as a player was especially buoyed by the coach, Van Chancellor, who in July told Cooper that he wanted her to be the prime go-to player on the team, according to Sports Illustrated. She responded to this vote of confidence in the next game with a 30-point outburst against the Sacramento Monarchs, followed by 32 points against the Phoenix Mercury and a 44-point league-leading output in a rematch against the Monarchs. She shot a staggering .792 percent beyond the three-point arc during these three games. In the thirteen contests after her discussion with Chancellor, Cooper scored 30 or more points seven times, all of the games victories for the Comets.

During the season Cooper found herself on top on many occasions. In addition to logging up the two highest individual point totals by a player, she was the first player to break the 300-, 400-, and 500- point plateaus. As her hot shooting continued, Cooper finished with the league scoring title in the 28-game season with a 22.2 points per game. Clearly not a one-dimensional player, Cooper finished in the top ten in scoring, assists, steals, shooting accuracy, three- point accuracy, free-throw accuracy, and minutes played. Her statistics earned her a spot on the 1997 All-WNBA First Team and helped her team finish with the best record in the league. Cooper exceeded many expectations by league analysts who before the season had expected Rebecca Lobo of the New York Liberty, Lisa Leslie of the Los Angeles Sparks, and Ruthie Bolton-Holfield of the Sacramento Monarchs to be the queens of the league. "Cooper has been the type of player to cause WNBA president Val Ackerman to say she has changed the face of women's pro basketball," proclaimed W.H. Stickney, Jr., in the Houston Chronicle.

Cooper wore a pink ribbon on her uniform in her professional games to show her support for a group seeking more research dollars for the fight against breast cancer. Her interest in this research was spurred by her mother being diagnosed with the disease that year. Cooper helped her mother through every stage of her cancer treatment during 1997, and having her mother close by to share her glory as a player was very important to her. "I had been tucked away in Europe for 11 years, and my mom hasn't been able to share any special moments with me," she told the Houston Chronicle. "So the fact that I won two MVP awards, {was named to} the All-WNBA first team and won the championship in the inaugural season has been a dream come true."

Saving her best for last and for when it mattered most, Cooper was a dominant force in the WNBA playoff series. She averaged 28.0 points a game in her team's wins over Charlotte and New York as she carried the Comets to the Championship title. Her performance during these crucial games was even more outstanding considering that she was playing with a deep thigh bruise at the time. Her 25- point performance in the final game, a 65-51 victory over New York, earned her Most Valuable Player honors for that game, while her overall season performance made her a shoo-in for Most Valuable Player for the season. Her achievement was especially impressive considering that, at age 34, she was among the oldest players in the league, with her most athletic years well behind her.

In the fall of 1997, Cooper and other WNBA all-stars participated in an international tour in Germany, Italy, and France. She also cashed in on her new fame by signing a two-year, $200,000 contract as a spokeswoman for General Motors. Part of her role with General Motors was to help raise money for breast cancer research. In the second year of her arrangement with General Motors, Cooper will begin working in an advertising and marketing trainee program to help her prepare for a possible new line of work after retiring from basketball.

At this time Cooper is raising a niece and nephew, and seeking to adopt another nephew. In the off-season she tries to get involved in as many pick-up games with men as she can, while also working at basketball camps and speaking before various groups. After her playing days are over, she hopes to get involved in coaching.

June 13, 2006: Cooper was named to the WNBA All-Decade Team.


NCAA Final Four All-Tourney Team, 1986; Most Valuable Player, European League All-Star Game, 1987; Player of the Week (twice), WNBA, 1997; All-WNBA First Team, 1997; Most Valuable Player, WNBA, 1997; Most Valuable Player, WNBA Championship Game, 1997.


Won city championship in 300 hurdles in high school; began playing basketball at age 16; won basketball scholarship to the University of Southern California, Los Angeles; played on National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship basketball teams, 1983, 1984; became a professional basketball player on Segovia team in Spain, 1986-87; played on Parma team in Italy, 1987-94; played on U.S. Olympic women's basketball team, 1988, 1992; won three-point contest in European League, 1988, 1992; played on Alcamo team in Italy, 1994-96; was leading scorer in European Cup, 1996; joined Houston Comets of new Women's National Basketball League (WNBA), 1997; set WNBA individual game scoring record twice, 1997; scored 30 points or more in eight games, 1997; finished season in top ten of seven categories (scoring, assists, steals, shooting accuracy, three-point shooting accuracy, free-throw shooting accuracy, and minutes), 1997; played with group of WNBA players in tour of Europe, 1997; signed contract to be a spokeswoman for General Motors, 1997.

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