The day the Houston Comets won their third WNBA title in honor of Kim Perrot
In 1999, Cynthia Cooper led the Comets to a three-peat in ‘memory of Kim’
A little more than two weeks before the Houston Comets played the New York Liberty in the 1999 WNBA Finals, the franchise lost one of its beloved players, Kim Perrot. The fiery point guard sat out the season while fighting a seven-month battle with a rare lung cancer that affects nonsmokers.
But Perrot was very much still a part of the franchise’s identity. She had helped the Comets win their first two championships in 1997 and 1998. And she proved to be the inspiration for the franchise’s third title.
The best-of-three series was tied at one game apiece after Liberty point guard Teresa Weatherspoon drained a half-court shot at the buzzer to win Game 2.
Houston’s Cynthia Cooper struggled in Game 2, going 1-for-10 from the field and 0-for-5 from beyond the arc. But in Game 3, played on Sept. 5, 1999, she was the difference. The two-time league MVP scored 24 points and grabbed six rebounds to lead the Comets to a 59-47 victory and a three-peat. She was named Finals MVP for the third consecutive time, while Tina Thompson contributed 13 points and Sheryl Swoopes added 11.
Swoopes and Cooper were unstoppable in the first half, combining for 20 of Houston’s first 22 points. Houston led 33-25 at halftime, and less than five minutes into the second half, the Comets expanded their lead to 38-27. After the Liberty scored the next four points, the Comets regained their momentum and went on a 10-0 run, putting the game out of reach.
New York shot under 31 percent from the field and had only nine free throw attempts, compared with Houston’s 32 attempts. Sue Wicks, with 11 points, was the only player from the Liberty to score in double digits.
In the final seconds of the game, the sold-out crowd at the Compaq Center in Houston began to chant, “Three for Kim, three for Kim,” in honor of Perrot. The Comets dedicated their season to the 5-foot-5 guard who, according to then-WNBA player Lynette Woodard, “was always the smallest person on the court but the biggest heart.”
“We said that Kim wasn’t here physically, but she was definitely here in spirit,” Swoopes said after the game. “She will always be a part of the Comets.”
After the win, Cooper held up Perrot’s No. 10 jersey to celebrate the three-peat. Cooper, one of Perrot’s closest friends and her roommate on road trips, was at her bedside when she died Aug. 19. It was an emotional moment when Cooper put on the No. 10 jersey and hugged Perrot’s family.
“I have to say we really wanted to win it for Kim,” Cooper told the fans. “This is in memory of Kim. This is in tribute to Kim.”
Like Cooper, Thompson and Swoopes, Perrot was named a champion for the third time. The Comets also retired her No. 10 jersey, making her the first WNBA player to have her jersey retired.
The Comets went on to win the 2000 WNBA championship the following year, making it their fourth consecutive title and their last one before the team folded in 2008.