The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced the finalists for the Class of 2021, and among the prominent players and coaches who earned a spot on the list is former Los Angeles Lakers guard Michael Cooper.
The Lakers selected Cooper as the 60th pick in the third round of the 1978 NBA Draft back when the NBA utilized more than two rounds of draft selections. Cooper, who played collegiate ball with the University of New Mexico, spent his entire 12-year career in the NBA playing for Los Angeles.
Cooper became reputed as one of the best defenders on the Lakers squad throughout his time in the league, leading to eight selections on the All-NBA Defensive Team, with five of those selections slotting him into the first team. The 6’5″ shooting guard also won the 1986-87 NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.
Cooper provided the Lakers with a reliable player off the bench, as he rarely missed games and impacted both ends of the floor, helping L.A. win five NBA championships in the 1980s.
After departing Los Angeles in the 1990-91 season, Cooper spent a year playing basketball in Italy. He returned to the Lakers in 1994 as an assistant coach, which jumpstarted his coaching career.
Cooper has spent nearly two decades coaching for the Lakers, Los Angeles Sparks, Denver Nuggets and Atlanta Dream, among others.
Other Hall of Fame finalists include Chris Bosh, Tim Hardaway, Marques Johnson, Paul Pierce, Ben Wallace and Chris Webber. The coaching category includes Rick Adelman and Bill Russell.
If Cooper is officially selected to join, it will mark the second consecutive year where a player who spent his entire career with the Lakers was enshrined, as Kobe Bryant joined the Hall of Fame in the Class of 2020. The 2020 and 2021 classes will both be inducted this summer after last year’s ceremony was cancelled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
Lakers optimistic Drummond will sign if bought out
As the Lakers resume play on Friday against the Indiana Pacers, the team is still searching for ways to possibly upgrade the roster in hopes of defending their recent championship.
One such player is Cleveland Cavaliers center Andre Drummond, who is a possible buyout candidate this season. The Lakers are noticeably short on quality big men that can score consistently around the rim, so if Drummond becomes available, the Lakers feel optimistic the two sides can work out a deal.
Drummond, alongside a healthy Anthony Davis and Marc Gasol, could supply head coach Frank Vogel with myriad opportunities to attack opposing teams down low.
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