Cover image for She got game : by personal odyssey
She got game : by personal odyssey
Cooper, Cynthia, 1963 April 14-
Publication Information:
New York : Warner Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
229 pages ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GV884.C63 A3 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
GV884.C63 A3 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ

On Order



WNBA star and Olympic gold medalist Cynthia Cooper shares her extraordinary story in this fascinating and inspiring book that proves that hard work, commitment, and determination can pave the way for success--no matter what the odds.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Cooper is the two-time Most Valuable Player of the fledgling Women's National Basketball Association. Her story is typically rags to riches in some ways but unique in others. She comes from a single-parent, inner-city Los Angeles family and earned a scholarship to USC through her basketball skills. She subsequently accepted an offer to play professionally in Europe, where she blossomed as both a player and a person. Most significant was her decision to immerse herself in European culture and language--something few American athletes overseas even attempt. Later success on two American Olympic teams paved the way for her shot at the WNBA in her mid-thirties, and success there brought financial security for her extended family. Tragedy accompanied success, however, with the death of her mother from breast cancer. Her autobiography is written in standard sports-star style, but its inspirational message is certain to strike a chord with female sports fans everywhere. --Wes Lukowsky

Publisher's Weekly Review

Although women's basketball has only come to prominence in the U.S. in the last few years, Cooper has been competitively engaged since 1981, first as a player for USC, then in local European leagues and for two U.S. Olympic teams. She is currently a star with the WNBA's two-time defending champion Houston Comets. All this experience should give the 36-year old Watts native, who has helped raise two nephews and watched her mother battle breast cancer, a deep well from which to draw. But her memoir reads like a perfunctory exercise riddled with motivational platitudes ("If there's one thing my life illustrates it's this: `Put an obstacle in front of me and I'll overcome it.'" Readers learn that during Cooper's fatherless childhood, her mother "worked to give us a better chance in life," but Cooper doesn't delve beyond this. The story looks like it will take a more substantive turn when Cooper describes her struggles to adapt and embrace new cultures when she played in Spain and Italy, but again she offers only superficial details ("Paella is a rice-based dish usually made with seafood or chicken.... It's delicious"). Had it been told well, Cooper's story could surely have been inspirational. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Cooper's odyssey took her from Watts, where she was one of eight children, to Olympic glory and her role as one of the top female players in the WNBA. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One The one thing that drives me and keeps me motivated is that I've always been the underdog. Always. Growing up in a large family of eight kids, I was the overlooked middle child. One of my four older siblings or three younger ones always seemed to be the center of attention. Never me. I was a shy and introverted little girl, not comfortable with how I looked or what I had to say. I felt insignificant. I tried to hide my pain by keeping to myself and masking my feelings. I was an underdog in basketball, too. Playing in college, on U.S. national teams and for more than a decade in the European professional leagues, I took a back seat to others. Even when I became a leading scorer in Europe and one of the top players overseas, I never received much publicity or notice. There were always bigger names around, drawing most of the attention. My time to shine wasn't in college or on the national teams. I had to play a supporting role to help those teams become successful. I never was the go-to player or what fans and media would consider the star. But now, playing in the WNBA, my time to shine has finally arrived. I've become the kind of player I always wanted to be and dreamed I could be. During the many long years I spent out of the spotlight, watching other players receive all the honors and recognition, I kept telling myself, "I am not less of a player or less of a person. I am going to continue to work on my game, I am going to grow as a person and I'm going to show everyone who I really am and--wait a minute, hold on--I've got a little bit of personality, too." I am no longer that timid and shy little girl who grew up in the inner city of Los Angeles, unsure of herself, unsure of her future, not knowing where she was going and without direction or purpose. That little girl, a true underdog, has become a distant memory. I know what I want. I want to play to the best of my ability and be a leader for my Houston teammates. I want to promote women's basketball and help market the WNBA. I want to provide a better future for my family, especially my nieces and nephews who live with my mother and me in the suburbs of Houston. I also want to serve as a role model for kids in the inner city who think their lives are hopeless or there's no way out. If I don't know anything else--and there are a lot of things I don't know--I know where I'm going in life. I am going to succeed and excel. And I would love to bring along with me every single person who is scared or unsure or uncertain of themselves. If someone feels surrounded by life or trapped in a bad situation, or if they think they can't possibly succeed, I am here to tell that person she or he can escape from that bad situation. Each of us has within ourselves the power to make a better, brighter life. I know, because I did it. People never had great expectations for me. Most of the people I knew growing up would give me a million reasons why I shouldn't succeed instead of giving me one reason why I should. But despite the negativity that surrounded my life in the inner city--the gangs, drugs and violence--I believed in myself. I established goals as a basketball player and a person. I didn't want to prove my doubters wrong as much as I wanted to prove that I was right. I've noticed that a lot of people get sidetracked worrying about what others say about them. They get hung up worrying about people's opinions of what they can or can't accomplish. They get discouraged by listening to people talk about their supposed shortcomings and limitations. I learned long ago that I can't control what other people think or say. But I can control what I think and say, and what I do in my life. I can control where I'm headed. Rather than listening to others, people need to learn to focus on what they can do, what they want to do and how they can go about accomplishing whatever it is they want to accomplish. That's where I keep my focus: what I want to do and how I'm going to do it. The success of the Houston Comets and the WNBA has given me the opportunity to make a difference and to have an impact on the lives of our youth. Not only with my nieces and nephews but on the lives of youth in America and internationally. My success in women's basketball has given me the chance to leave my mark on the world in a positive light. It's also given me a chance, for the first time in my life, to be me. I can say what I mean and mean what I say. It's the real me that has come out since the Houston Comets emerged as back-to-back WNBA champions. It's not the middle child. It's not the role player. It's not the basketball player overshadowed by her teammates. It's not an underdog--it's the real me. I have taken on responsibility as a WNBA leader, as a daughter and an aunt. I'm making the decisions for my own life. I'm the one who's accountable. I know what I want to accomplish and where I want to go. When I don't know the answers to the questions I face, I'm not afraid to ask for help. I no longer feel, as I once did, that asking questions makes you less of a person or that it means you're dumb, ignorant or stupid. I've discovered that it's the person who doesn't ask questions who is ignorant, because he or she remains that way. Two years ago, before the Houston Comets became one of the hottest teams in professional sports, I was just an average, everyday person. I could go anywhere and do anything without being recognized or stopped on the street. I didn't have to worry about marketing people, marketing agreements and contracts. I didn't have to worry about book deals and movie deals. I didn't have to worry about the correct wording in a contract. But I've had to learn all that. The only way to learn is to not be scared about speaking up when you don't understand something. To ask questions and to not be fooled by someone telling you it's not your responsibility, that an agent or a marketing company will handle things. It is your responsibility. Everything we do is our own responsibility. What I learned from the example my mother, Mary Cobbs, set for me--besides how to work hard, make sacrifices, trust in the Lord and take responsibility for my actions--is that each of us can do more. Doing more is one message I take to audiences whenever I'm invited to speak. I used to have to beg people to let me speak at their schools or camps or fund-raising events. Now, after the success of the Houston Comets and the individual recognition I've received, people are begging me to talk. "You can achieve something more," I say. "You can always get better. You can be a better friend to your friends, a better sister to your brothers, a better daughter to your parents. When you realize you can do more tomorrow than you're doing today, you will get inspired. You'll develop a fire within yourself, a desire to become a better person, a better doctor, lawyer or athlete. You'll have a hunger and thirst for knowledge. Because knowledge is power." I've had people come up to me after my speeches and tell me they've been inspired. A woman who recently heard me speak at a church in Houston told me afterward that I'd motivated her to go back to college and finish her degree. It's gratifying to think that I'm having a positive impact on some people's lives, that I'm able to make a difference. There's one other message I try to stress in speeches: Don't put limits on yourself. Reach as high as you can. Keep raising the bar. After spending more than a decade in Europe, I had every reason to come back to the United States and not play at such a high level. I was thirty-four years old when the WNBA started in 1997, an age at which many women basketball players have already turned to coaching or other pursuits. Many people associated with women's basketball thought my best years were behind me. It would have been easy for me to go along with that line of thinking and say, "Hey, you know what? They're right. I'm not in my prime anymore." I wouldn't do it. I wouldn't accept that thinking. I've spent a lot of years paying my dues in women's basketball; when the WNBA got under way, it was time to collect. The number one thing I wanted to do in the WNBA was show everyone I could play basketball at the high level I'd maintained in Europe. I wanted my family and friends, especially my mother, to see how my game has grown and matured since I was the sparkplug sixth man on the USC Lady Trojans NCAA championship teams in the early 1980s. The past two years have been like a dream fulfilled. Words could never express how it feels to play in front of a sold-out Houston crowd of 16,285 people who worship every move you make and every shot you take. Fans who give you unconditional support. Words can't explain how it feels to have people chanting in unison, "MVP! MVP! MVP!" Hearing that brought tears to my eyes at the free throw line. It was like a wake-up call to what was happening, because I get so wrapped up in the game I don't realize the magnitude of it all. It's truly awesome. To see where we've come from and where women's basketball is going and the immense opportunity we now have brings joy to my heart. And some sadness, too, because there are a lot of great women players this opportunity has passed by. Just to be part of the WNBA is special, but to actually excel and go down in history as the league's first superstar is amazing. It's special to me and my family, and it's even more gratifying because my mother has been part of it. As many basketball fans already know, Mary Cobbs was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly before the WNBA began its inaugural season. It's been a difficult period for our family, but the success of the Comets and the accolades for her daughter have brought joy to Mother's life and helped her fight in the battle with cancer. Some WNBA players probably take what the league has going for granted, but I'm not one of them. I've been through the wringer playing basketball. I've had to survive a lot of tough times--like being forced to go abroad to pursue my dream and having to stay overseas so long, in a different culture, away from family and friends. Circumstances forced me to lose touch with people I grew up with. Those are years and experiences I can never replace. Since I made all those sacrifices, I'm able to appreciate the WNBA and the opportunities that we have more than most. It's my job now to make sure the next generation of women basketball players, and the generations after it, don't have to go overseas. That could be an option, certainly, but it would no longer be a necessity. If we handle things right, women basketball players will be able to stay home and live in America and make a living doing something they love to do. To me, this book is about finding yourself, believing in yourself and awakening to the fact that it's you who determines your future and what you do with your life. You can take control. I got off to a slow start. I was a true underdog, unsteady and unsure of myself. Once I gained some self-confidence and learned to believe in myself, I began to soar. I know you can, too. Just follow me. Copyright © 1999 Cynthia Cooper. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

1 My Time to Shinep. 1
2 Like Mother, Like Daughterp. 9
3 Hard Timesp. 15
4 Our Little Secretp. 25
5 Hoping for a Better Lifep. 31
6 Finding My Giftp. 39
7 Culture Shockp. 49
8 Championship Seasonsp. 61
9 The Darkest Days of My Lifep. 71
10 No Longer the Outcastp. 79
11 Seeking Confirmationp. 87
12 A Brief Reign in Spainp. 95
13 Dog Days of Summerp. 103
14 Growing Wings in Italyp. 107
15 Heart and Seoulp. 115
16 Meeting My Idolp. 119
17 Growing Painsp. 125
18 Blame It on Barcelonap. 135
19 Stepping Upp. 141
20 Sunny Sicilyp. 147
21 Coming Homep. 155
22 Raise the Roofp. 165
23 The Fame Gamep. 179
24 She Got Gamep. 193
25 Getting Betterp. 203
26 The Courage to Flyp. 209
Epiloguep. 219
Indexp. 225