Cynthia Cooper-Dyke is a WNBA legend who has left her mark on Los Angeles Basketball history as a player and as a coach. Although she was born in Chicago, Cooper-Dyke was raised in Watts and attended Locke High School.
At Locke, she competed in basketball and track and field. She averaged 31 points per game, which helped the Locke Saints reach the Division 4A state championship. Cooper-Dyke became Los Angeles Player of the Year and took her talents to the University of Southern California.
“[USC] opened up a whole new world for me,” Cooper-Dyke said in the documentary “Women of Troy.” “It was a constant tug-of-war for me, like I was a fish out of water.”
With Cheryl Miller, Paula McGee, and Pamela McGee as teammates, Cooper-Dyke helped the Women of Troy be one of the highest-ranking programs in the United States. They went to the NCAA tournament all four years Cooper-Dyke competed there and went to the Final Four three times.
In 1983 and 1984, Cooper-Dyke helped the Women of Troy win two National Championship titles. She ultimately became a four-year letter winner. Cooper-Dyke’s final USC game as a player was the 1986 NCAA Championship game.
Her 265 steals are ranked third all-time in program history, Cooper-Dyke is also ranked fifth in all-time assists with 381. She is also the eighth all-time leading scorer with 1,559 career points.
There was no professional basketball league for women in the United States at the time, forcing Cooper-Dyke to take her talents overseas. She signed a one-year, $20,000 contract to the team Samoa Bétera in Valencia, Spain. Cooper-Dyke averaged 37 points per game with the team, helping her get a contract with Parma in the Italian league the following year.
Cooper-Dyke competed in Italy and Spain for 10 seasons, winning eight scoring titles. She learned to speak fluent Italian and would converse with Laker’s legend Kobe Bryant in the language.
In 1988, Cooper-Dyke helped the U.S. national team win a gold medal for the Seoul Olympics and returned to help the national team win a bronze in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
In 1997, the WNBA had their inaugural season and Cooper-Dyke built a dynasty with the Houston Comets. With hall of famers Tina Thompson and Sheryl Swoopes as teammates, Cooper-Dyke led the Comets to the first four WNBA championship titles.
For three consecutive seasons, Cooper-Dyke led the WNBA in scoring. Because of her efforts, she became the first league MVP and won WNBA Finals MVP honors three times. In 1998, Cooper-Dyke won her second WNBA MVP award. She retired from the WNBA but returned in 2003 and retired again in 2004.
During her WNBA career, Cooper-Dyke averaged 21 points, 3.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. The Comets retired her no. 14 jersey. In 2009, Cooper-Dyke was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. The next year, she became the first WNBA player to be inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Cooper-Dyke started her coaching career in 2000 when she became head coach of the Phoenix Mercury. In May 2005, she took the helm of the Prairie View A&M women’s basketball team and led them to a SWAC tournament title in her second season.
After having stints of head coaching at UNC Wilmington and Texas Southern University, Cooper-Dyke returned to USC to become head coach of the women’s basketball team in April 2013. She guided the Women of Troy to the Pac-12 championship game in the 2013-14 season.
In April 2019, Cooper-Dyke returned to Texas Southern and is currently the head coach of the Tigers women’s basketball team.