An integral part of “Showtime” during the Los Angeles Lakers 1980s dominance, Michael Cooper’s name doesn’t surface as often as it should in talk about basketball’s all-time greats. After all, he won a championship almost every other year while he was in a Lakers uniform, getting five rings in 12 seasons. Cooper was known especially for the fight in his defense–his ability to lock down the opposing team’s greatest scoring threat. He won the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year Award in 1987 and was a five-time All-Defensive First Team selection.
Cooper recently learned he has a new adversary. The WNBA Atlanta Dream announced this week that Michael Cooper, its head coach, had been diagnosed with tongue cancer. Cooper will take a leave of absence from the team. A press release from the league quoted Cooper saying, “I’m fortunate that my condition was diagnosed early, and this episode illustrates the importance of screening and early detection.” It could almost describe the way he played defense–seeing screens, early detection. The 58-year-old was given a good prognosis. You know he’ll fight.