Michael Cooper is one of the most underrated players in the NBA’s history, as the shooting guard was a vital piece of the “Showtime” Lakers from the ’80s, playing his role to perfection. Through his whole career that he spent in Los Angeles, Coop was known as a defensive specialist, often guarding the opposing team’s best perimeter player.
Playing in the ’80s, the golden era of NBA basketball, Cooper was matched up with great players on a nightly basis, and he shared the most challenging opponents he ever faced while talking on his podcast.
“Some of the top ones were George Gervin, the late great Mike Mitchell, he could score, man, people forget how good that guy was, mid-range and close to the basket, obviously a young Michael Jordan, but the hardest one would have to be Larry Bird and the only reason I say this is because Larry was dangerous with the basketball, but he became more dangerous when he didn’t have the basketball.”Michael Cooper, Showtime with Coop
“Players like Michael Jordan, when Michael threw the ball away, he kinda rested a little bit, Mike Mitchell threw it to Gervin, and Gervin would rest, and vice versa. But Larry was gonna go rebound the ball; he was gonna set a pick for somebody. When he has the ball, if he wasn’t scoring, he was looking to throw it to somebody to score, so he has to be the toughest simply from the mental aspect of the game.”Michael Cooper, Showtime with Coop
Those are some great names Cooper listed, with Bird taking the title of the toughest one simply for the fact you could never take a second off while checking him. Obviously, being matched up with Bird in numerous Celtics-Lakers battles helped his case. To conclude, Cooper mentioned another name that is not as known as the other guys he mentioned.
“Another player I would like to bring up, that people have a tendency to forget too, that f–kin Andrew Toney…, there was nobody that could guard that dude, man Andrew Toney was a flat-out b–ch on that basketball court, that guy went at you at all positions.Michael Cooper, Showtime with Coop
It is always great to hear stories about the great players from the ’80s, especially the underappreciated ones. And when it comes first hand from one of the scrappiest and toughest defenders of that era, you know it’s the real deal.