SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Like the franchise for which she played during those four straight championship seasons, Cynthia Cooper-Dyke flashed upon the local scene for a few shining moments — and then was gone.
The difference is, unlike those Comets, who folded in 2008, Cooper-Dyke will be immortalized in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, the sport’s most sacred shrine.
“In my life, if I had to speak of a legacy, I would say I’ve always been and will always be a finisher,” said Cooper-Dyke, 47, who was inducted Friday night with an illustrious class that included Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen and both the 1960 and 1992 men’s gold-medal Olympic teams. “I was never happy with just being a participant.
“Tonight, this is as close to finished as I could possibly be.
“Tonight I can really feel like I’ve arrived.”
Cooper-Dyke and the WNBA arrived in town at the same time in 1997, a time in which she thought her best days were behind her. By then she had helped USC to back-to-back NCAA titles in 1983-84 and afterward was an international star in Spain and Italy for 11 years.
“I never thought I’d make it to the Hall, particularly because I spent most of my pro career overseas,” said Cooper-Dyke, who was 33 when she became the WNBA’s first Most Valuable Player. “I kind of played in the shadows over in Italy and Spain.
“When the WNBA came about I really only had four short seasons to make my mark here in America. Of course I took full advantage of that, but I really didn’t know if those four years would be enough.”
The WNBA — which was entering its first season — was the kind of challenge she couldn’t resist. Along with Sheryl Swoopes, Tina Thompson and coach Van Chancellor, who’s also in the Hall, Cooper-Dyke and Co. built a dynasty.
“The reason we won four in a row was because every year we felt we had something to prove,” said Cooper-Dyke, who is about to embark on her first season as coach at North Carolina-Wilmington after spending five seasons at Prairie View A&M. “It was not only with the influx of the (American Basketball League) players, but with Cheryl getting in shape after her pregnancy and Tina coming into her own as a player.
“It was a great time.”
As someone who spent most of their formative years in Los Angeles and had lived overseas, she quickly grew to love the Bayou City.
“I’ll tell you, Houston is my city,” Cooper-Dyke said . “I not only love the city, but the fans of the city.
“I remember vividly the sea of red for the Comets and sharing with them a special moment in my life. This is a humbling moment for me and a great honor.”
“This is for them as well.”
As an inspiration to young women over the years, she now stands alongside all the game’s greats — men and women.
“Growing up in the inner city, you don’t have many hopes of going to the Hall of Fame,” said Cooper-Dyke, who also helped the U.S. women’s national team win gold at the 1988 Olympics. “It’s a dream I never could’ve never dreamed of.
“When you start to look at the talent that has made it here you sit back and reflect and say, ‘Wait a minute, what am I doing here?’
“But I’m glad I’m living this dream and it came true.”
Best of all, Cooper-Dyke can wake up knowing this Comet never will fade away.
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