I have been a Laker fan since I was 7 (in 1967) and am presently a basketball official here. One of the reasons I enjoyed the Lakers over the years is that they have always exhibited good sportsmanship, win or lose. The recent antics of Michael Cooper, however, dismay me as a fan and a parent, and trouble me as an official.
Fighting is not a part of the strategy of basketball, therefore the officials calling games for certain rivalries will warn captains during the pregame meeting that fighting will not be tolerated. Along with this warning, officials generally discourage talking on the court as it sometimes leads to confrontations. The NBA seems to try to overlook incidents involving certain players because of their fan appeal. However, those players may find their appeal to be fleeting if they are repeatedly involved in flare-ups.
There was a time in Cooper's career when he would help an opponent to his feet when he knocked him down. He is a fine player who has lately decided that mind games are more important than good, aggressive play. I believe he recognizes his status as a role model. Off the court, he has been telling our youth, "It's not to cool to do drugs." On the court, by his actions, I wish he would tell them, "It's cool to be a good sport."
GERALD L. BROWN