The Los Angeles Lakers have had their fair share of excellent defenders. Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Kobe Bryant have all made numerous All-Defensive teams. Elmore Smith holds the NBA record for blocked shots in a game and Eddie Jones has the highest career steal average for a Laker.
None of those Laker greats, however, have the defensive reputation of the great Michael Cooper, and in 1987, Cooper did something that no other Laker has ever done as he was named the Defensive Player Of They Year.
The Defensive Player of the Year award was created in 1983, so Cooper was only the fourth player to win the award following Alvin Robertson, Mark Eaton, and Sidney Moncrief, who won the first two awards. While Cooper’s numbers weren’t amazing (he averaged only one steal and less than one block) it just goes to show that numbers don’t tell the entire story when talking defense.
Cooper’s length and foot speed allowed him to guard the best player on the other team every night. Whether it was Larry Bird, Julius Erving, Dominique Wilkins, or Michael Jordan, Cooper was the man who could make life a living hell for all of them and he did it all year in helping the Lakers win the 1987 NBA Championship, their fourth of the decade.
Cooper continues to be one of the more forgotten Laker stars as he was undoubtedly one of the most important pieces of the Showtime Lakers. He was a part of all five championship teams in the 80s, and without his constant hounding of the stars of the NBA, it’s hard to believe the Lakers would have been as successful as they were.
We always focus on offense, but everyone knows that defense wins championships, which is why on this Throwback Thursday we remember Michael Cooper for becoming the only Laker to win the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year Award in 1987.
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