The skinny kid arrived on the New Mexico campus from Pasadena, Calif., in the fall of 1976. As a senior, he became an integral part of a Lobo team that captured the hearts of a community and placed UNM basketball on the national stage.
In 1977-78, the Cooper-paced Lobos led the nation in scoring, averaging more than 97 points a game. They finished 24-4, achieved a No. 4 ranking in the national polls and won the Western Athletic Conference regular-season title. Cooper earned All-America honors after averaging 16.1 points a game and igniting the fans in The Pit like never before.
Cooper was a third-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Lakers in 1978, and spent his entire 12-year career in L.A. Known for his lockdown defense, he was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year following the 1986-87 season.
During the "Showtime" era, when Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy were grabbing most of the headlines, Cooper was as important to the Lakers' scheme as any of them.
Cooper was a member of five world championship teams in Los Angeles.