Cooper was the best backcourt defender in the NBA during his prime (he'd also guard small forwards, as Larry Bird will tell you).
Cooper was invaluable to the Lakers because he was not only a stopper defensively, he also was Magic's back up at point guard, and did an excellent job in that capacity as well.
Cooper was actually an underrated offensive player. He was great on the fast break, but he also had an excellent jumper... He hit a lot of big baskets for the Lakers.
In the '87 finals, game 4, the Celtics were up by six with a minute to go... Cooper hit a 3 pointer to cut the lead to 3, which helped set the stage for Magic's "junior, junior, junior sky hook" which won the game with 2 seconds left on the clock. Cooper's 3 pointer is largely forgotten, but it was HUGE. The Lakers had come back from a 15 point deficit to tie the game, only to see the Celtics run off six straight points. It was at that point when Cooper hit his 3 pointer.
In the 87-88 season, the Lakers visited Boston, and the Celtics at that time had a 48 game home winning streak going. Again, Cooper tied the game with a 3 pointer with a minute to go... the Lakers ended up winning 115-114 on Magic's off balance bank shot from the left sideline at the buzzer... (it was Cooper who made the in-bounds pass to Magic, from near the mid-court line).
In the '88 playoffs (1st round), Cooper's jumper won game 4 against Utah (the Jazz were up 2 games to 1 at the time)... had Cooper missed, the Jazz would have gone up 3-1... the Lakers ended up winning the series in 7 games. Coopers jump shot is all but forgotten in the hoopla surrounding the Lakers repeating as champions (first NBA repeat champ in 19 years)
Scott's biggest shot of his career with the Lakers was probably against the Pistons in the 88 Finals, game 6... the Pistons had a 3 point lead with about 50 seconds left (they also held a 3-2 series lead), Scott hit a jumper from the side of the key, bringing the Lakers to within a point... the Lakers won the game on Kareem's two free throws with 13 seconds left... this tied the series at 3, the Lakers won game 7.
Both were vital to the Lakers' success, but Scott often tended to disappear in big games. Scott was under a tremendous amount of pressure when he joined the Lakers, because he was replacing the extremely popular Norm Nixon. He would take criticism from the press very seriously, often to his detriment on the court. He felt many times that the press was blaming him personally when the Lakers lost a big game...it was Pat Riley who took Scott aside and explained to him that when you start for the LA Lakers, criticism comes with the terriroty. That seemed to help, and Scott became less concerned about what the press was writing about him than he was before.
Cooper could be a scorer if he wanted and needed to... but he was never all that offensive-minded as a player. Besides, the shooting guard was usually the 4th option on the Lakers anyway (with Kareem, Magic, and Worthy on the court).
The best thing about Byron Scott was that he had a shooter's mentality, which is what he needed to succeed there in Los Angeles at that time.
Cooper was extremely durable, especially given his frame size... but he played all 82 games in 5 straight seasons for the Lakers... and he would play about 26-30 min/game during that time. Scott was a bit more injury prone, he tended to have a lot of pulled hammies.
I tend to think, having watched both of them throughout their Laker careers, that Cooper was actually the better all around player of the two. Scott was a decent defender, but Cooper was an excellent shooter and the best backcourt defender in the game... Cooper was better in big games... Cooper was an excellent passer and point guard as well. Both were intelligent players, but Cooper probably made fewer mistakes out there... Cooper was more durable. Cooper was also more versatile.
I'd go with Cooper, expecially if game 7 is tonight.
· 1 decade ago