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Lakers great Michael Cooper diagnosed with cancer

Jul 21, 2014, 6:22 PM EDT

Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets Getty Images

Marc Gasol’s 2013 Defensive Player of the Year award has been hailed as a breakthrough for advanced ways of thinking about basketball.

Gasol averaged just 7.8 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.0 steals per game that season – hardly the typical per-game defensive numbers that catch the eye of award voters. But Gasol impressed so much through his subtle contributions, he won the award anyway.

However, Gasol wasn’t actually the first player to win Defensive Player of the Year that way.

In 1987, Michael Cooper averaged even fewer rebounds, blocks and steals per game and took the honor. In an era when traditional stats more accurately predicted award voting, Cooper’s lockdown defense couldn’t be overlooked. His impact on the game was truly special.

Cooper, who won five championships in 12 years with the Lakers, now coaches the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream.

The Dream released a statement:

The WNBA Atlanta Dream announced today that head coach Michael Cooper has been diagnosed with early stage tongue cancer, and will take a temporary leave of absence from the team.

Cooper will undergo a surgical procedure this week at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in Atlanta. Typical recovery time for the procedure is two weeks. A full recovery is anticipated following the surgical procedure. During Cooper’s absence from the team, assistant coach Karleen Thompson will assume head coaching duties. Per team policy, no further details will be disclosed.

“The doctors and staff at Emory have been tremendous, and I know I’m in good hands,” said Cooper. “I’m fortunate that my condition was diagnosed early, and this episode illustrates the importance of screening and early detection. I know the team will be in good hands with Coach Thompson at the helm during my absence, and I look forward to returning to the court soon.”

Hopefully, Cooper makes a speedy and full recovery.

  1. antistratfordian - Jul 21, 2014 at 6:29 PM

    I wish him the best.

    But, kids, don’t drink in excess and don’t smoke. Combining the two is a bad deal. Cooper, from what I understand, used to be an alcoholic. Maybe he still is… I don’t know. And I’m not sure if he’s a smoker or not. But smoking and drinking is the easiest path to oral cancer.

    • tampajoey - Jul 21, 2014 at 7:17 PM

      You’re one of those kinda guys that likes to offer advise when no one is asking for it. A lot of people tend to find that to be pretty annoying. Comes off a little self-righteous and judgmental.

      • antistratfordian - Jul 21, 2014 at 7:23 PM

        Well look who’s talking. But, seriously, your risk of cancer skyrockets when you combine drinking and smoking. I get the sense that you might be one of these people that does one or the other, or both.

        It’s hard to quit, but it’s not impossible. Actually, sometimes it’s not even hard. You just have to sincerely want to do it. That’s the tricky part.

      • asimonetti88 - Jul 21, 2014 at 8:45 PM

        Maybe you should be his doctor since you seem to have the whole situation figured out.

    • 00maltliquor - Jul 22, 2014 at 5:04 AM

      Thanks anti. While everyone else is clowning you out and downvoting you, I actually learned something from you. I don’t know how common sense that is for most but I never thought about drinking giving you tongue cancer. Or even combining both smoke and drink to really kickstart it.

      I quit smoking cigs like 3 months ago and in place I vape. Plus as my screen name implies, yes I do love to drink. I’m gonna continue to live my life and do what I do, heck EVERYTHING good and fun is bad for you so I’m not gonna live my life in fear of every stinking thing, BUT at least I know and it’s something that gives me cause to pause and re-think a few situations and now at least I’m not oblivious to this. Good looking out. Only on p bt folks lol. You get basketball and life lessons!

      Good luck Coop! I’m pulling for you fam.

      • antistratfordian - Jul 22, 2014 at 4:07 PM

        Congrats on dropping the cigs.

  2. elcaminobilly - Jul 21, 2014 at 7:15 PM

    Get well soon!

  3. asimonetti88 - Jul 21, 2014 at 7:29 PM

    Coop was a great player on some awesome teams, and has been a pretty good coach at all kinds of levels. He coached the Sparks for a long time, taking over from Kobe’s dad Joe Bryant

  4. mungman69 - Jul 21, 2014 at 7:52 PM

    I wish Coop a speedy recovery.
    Get well soon.
    Cooper may be sick but he’s still doing better than those Lakers.

  5. wisbadgfan - Jul 21, 2014 at 8:30 PM

    Great team player and a solid person.

    I wish Coop a speedy recovery and good health.

  6. georgewashingtonsghost - Jul 21, 2014 at 8:51 PM

    I join in those wishing him a speedy recovery.

  7. seasickcecil - Jul 21, 2014 at 9:55 PM

    Best of luck to you Michael Cooper.

  8. hojo20 - Jul 21, 2014 at 10:57 PM

    We need more WNBA posts on this probasketballtalk.

  9. Mr. Wright 212 - Jul 22, 2014 at 1:59 AM


  10. omniusprime - Jul 22, 2014 at 8:38 AM

    Get Well Soonest Coop! Glad to hear his cancer isn’t really serious and that it’s been caught early. Thanks for all the great memories and Coop-a-Loops! I hope he is able to return to coaching soon as he makes a full and speedy recovery. Truly a Laker great.

  11. scbaby2013 - Jul 22, 2014 at 2:37 PM

    Hope u get better soon coop.

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