Here at jeffpearlman.com we like to give a platform to up-and-coming writers. Hence, welcome to the stage the one and only Christina Alexander, contributing sports writer at The Erie Reader and Gannon University grad. You can follow her on Twitter here, and this is her blog. Christina brings to us her take on her favorite all-time athlete …
Forget American Girl dolls—I wanted posters of my favorite WNBA players for Christmas.
“That’s all you wanted,” my mom said. “You didn’t want dolls or Barbies, you wanted basketball posters.”
For the Christmas of 1997, I got my wish. Three posters from Santa—Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes and Teresa Witherspoon. I couldn’t be happier.
It was inaugural year for the WNBA and I was hooked, infatuated with the league as a fledgling basketball player myself. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen? Forget about it. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh? Pssh. Houston Comets’ Cooper, Swoopes and Tina Thompson were the Big 3 before the Big 3.
Aside from writing, the WNBA would introduce me to a world that would later become one of my other passions—sports.
Cooper would introduce me to leadership and what it took to be a successful on and (in my case) off the field.
One afternoon, sitting in my grandparents’ spacious sun room, I settled in and turned the channel to the Los Angeles Sparks and the Houston Comets game. With Grandma’s permission, I grabbed some Chips Ahoy! cookies from the cupboard and a glass of milk.
“Only take what you’re going to drink, Christina,” she yelled from the family room.
“Yes, Gram,” I said pouring almost a full glass (I have to have my cookies immersed, end of story).
In solitude, I was witnessing the beginning to a great rivalry. The rest of my cousins were as disinterested as could be, opting for arts and crafts in the garage instead of the game.
Looking back now, I’m grateful I got to see the Sparks and Comets battle it out. The fluidity of Cooper’s game was so smooth, so effortless. Her presence was commanded on the court. She guided the Comets to four-straight WNBA Championships from 1997-2000 and was named Most Valuable Player.
That day I watched the game from beginning to end, neglecting the beautiful weather outside and the neighborhood ball game now going on in the backyard.
For me, taking pointers from Cooper was far more important than mere recreation. How many times can I really take the boys and their cheating ways?
I needed to study Cooper’s tendencies because in just a couple days I would be applying them in my own game.
When people talk about professional sports dynasties, the Los Angeles Lakers and New England Patriots roll off the tongue. Does anyone ever talk about the Comets in those discussions? No.
Well, they should