Rockets: How the Houston Comets became the dynasty that started it all for the WNBA

Cynthia Cooper #14 of the Houston Comets
Cynthia Cooper #14 of the Houston Comets /
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Houston Rockets
Houston Comets celebrate after the WNBA championship Mandatory Credit: Todd Warshaw /Allsport /

The Houston Comets’ Dynasty

As mentioned earlier, the first season of the WNBA saw the Comets in the Eastern Conference, joining teams like the New York Liberty, Charlotte Sting, and the Cleveland Rockers. The Comets would finish the regular season with the best record in the league at 18-10.

Cooper won the first-ever MVP and Chancellor took home Coach of the Year.

Under the WNBA’s previous format the playoffs consisted of the top four teams with the best records. In the first round, the Comets knocked off the Sting 70-54.

In the championship game vs. the Liberty, it was a one-game series with a winner-take-all format. In a game where Swoopes only played 5 minutes (as she was still working her way back from her pregnancy earlier that year), Cooper led the Comets with 25 points, while Thompson finished with 18, leading the Comets to their first-ever championship 65-51.

The following year the Comets moved to the Western Conference, as the WNBA expanded the league to 10 teams. Cooper, Swoopes, and Thompson, along with the rest of the Comets, came out on fire finishing the season with a 27-3 record, which was yet again the best mark in the league.

Cooper again took home the MVP along with Chancellor taking the Coach of the Year award for the second straight year.

This year the playoff format changed to a best-of-3 format and again the Comets faced the Sting in the first round of the playoffs. The Comets dominated the Sting this time, winning the series 2-0.

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The Comets would go on to face the Phoenix Mercury, who actually made it a more competitive series. In Game 1 the Mercury stole a tight game from the Comets, pulling away 54-51. The second game was even closer, as it went to overtime, although the Comets pulled out the victory.

In the third and final game, Cooper was the best player on the court yet again, leading the Comets in scoring with 23 points, as the Comets took home their second straight title.

Again Cooper brought home the WNBA Finals MVP Award.

Unfortunately during the off-season before the start of the third season, the Comets received bad news. Kim Perrot, who was the heart and soul of the team and one of the main reasons why the Comets won their first two championships, was diagnosed with lung cancer that was rapidly spreading.

Perrot flew to Mexico for alternative treatment but it was not successful. In her final days, she was joined by her teammate Cynthia Cooper, and later died on August 19th, 1999 at only 32 years old.

The Comets would dedicate the season to Perrot, as they would again finish with the best record in the WNBA, this time finishing 26-6. For this year’s format, the top-two teams received a first-round bye, meaning the Comets faced Lisa Leslie and the LA Sparks in the Western Conference Finals.

This was a series that had everything.

Unfortunately for the Comets, they fell victim to perhaps the most famous shot in WNBA history on their own home court. Most teams would have been shell-shocked and would probably have folded mentally, which wasn’t an option with the Comets facing a third and decisive game in the series.

For the third straight Finals, Cooper would lead the Comets in scoring in the close-out game, scoring 24 points, as the Comets won their third consecutive championship and dedicated the championship to Kim Perrot.

Cooper held up Perrot’s jersey on the scoring table after the Game 3 win.

In the fourth season of the Comets’ dynasty, it was more of the same, although it was Swoopes who was the best player in the league this time, as Cooper passed the torch to her teammate. Swoopes would go on to win the league MVP, averaging 20.7 points a game.

The Comets though, for the first time, didn’t have the best record, as the Sparks finished one game better at 28-4.

For the second straight year, the Comets faced the Sparks with a chance to go to the Finals and the Comets swept the Sparks 2-0 yet again, setting up the final act of the Comets and Liberty trilogy.

This time around, there were no buzzer-beaters or miracles, as the Comets swept the Liberty 2-0, and yet again Cooper took home the WNBA Finals MVP.

Four years into the Comets’ existence into the WNBA, the Comets won four WNBA championships. The Comets would go on to make the playoffs for the next three years but with injuries and retirements, they never made it back to the finals.

The Comets’ dominance came at a perfect time, as the Houston Rockets were struggling during the Comets’ title years.

Next: The Comets' impact on the WNBA and the city of Houston