With the announcement that the Los Angeles Lakers will retire Jamaal Wilkes' number, the surprising response from many Lakers fans has been to yell:
That's right, a movement to honor Michael Cooper by retiring his number is gaining momentum.
Just take a look at the comments in my column questioning whether Jamaal Wilkes' career was great enough to have his jersey retired. A few of the comments were advocating retiring Michael Cooper's jersey if Jamaal Wilkes is the new standard.
Here are the reasons for and against retiring Michael Cooper's number.
The Case for Coop
First off, Michael Cooper was a loyal Laker, spending his entire 12-year NBA career in the purple and gold from 1979-1990. Cooper was instrumental in helping the Lakers win five titles in the 1980's, and his contributions to the Showtime dynasty cannot be overlooked.
While the Lakers had plenty of offense with Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, and Byron Scott, it was Michael Cooper who was the team's defensive anchor.
Cooper was named the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year in 1987. He was a 1st Team All-Defense selection five times and was 2nd Team All-Defensive three times. Michael Cooper was arguably the best perimeter defensive player of his era.
Michael Cooper was also among the league's best 3-point shooters. Cooper finished among the Top-5 in the NBA in 3-point field goals three times and among the NBA's Top-10 in 3-point field goal percentage three times.
Cooper's combination of defensive dominance and 3-point marksmanship made him instrumental in each of the Lakers' five titles of the 1980's.
The Case Against Coop
But to be a legend as a Laker, it takes more than being a solid contributor on title teams.
The honor of retiring a player's number should be reserved for legends, and Michael Cooper falls short of that lofty distinction.
While Cooper was instrumental in the Lakers' 1980's titles, he came off the bench and only averaged more than 30 minutes per game once in his career.
All other Lakers who have been honored with a retired jersey were multiple-time All-Stars and are now in the NBA Hall of Fame, including Jamaal Wilkes.
Cooper, on the other hand, never made an All-Star team.
While Cooper's defense was stellar, his overall career statistics were average:
27.1 MPG, 8.9 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, 46.9 FG%
Cooper's postseason averages were only slightly better than his regular season numbers.
The Coop Conclusion
I grew up as a kid rooting for the Showtime Lakers of the 1980's, and I loved Michael Cooper.
As a kid I sometimes pulled my socks all the way up to my knees, just so I could look like Coop.
But in the end, I view the retiring of a Lakers' number as an honor reserved only for the all-time legends.
Michael Cooper was a great player, and I have nothing but respect for him, but he is not an all-time legend.
Instead of honoring him with a retired number, which he does not quite deserve, I'll give him props one last time like I did as a kid in the 1980's:
Andrew Sweat is a die-hard Lakers fan. For more from this author, visit Andrew's archive or check these out articles: