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Former Nuggets, Blazers Center Wayne Cooper Dies at Age 65

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVApril 12, 2022

Retired Denver Nuggets center Wayne Cooper in the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, in Denver. The Nuggets won 87-78. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

The Denver Nuggets announced Monday night that longtime NBA center Wayne Cooper has died at the age of 65.

x - Denver Nuggets @nuggets

We are saddened to hear of the passing of a great Nugget, teammate, and person, Wayne Cooper. <br><br>He will be sorely missed, and our thoughts are with his family at this time. <br><br>Rest In Peace🙏 <a href="https://t.co/N3gxzc9WSI">pic.twitter.com/N3gxzc9WSI</a>

No cause of death was provided for Cooper, who spent five of his 14 NBA seasons in Denver. Cooper also spent five seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers and had stints with the Golden State Warriors, Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks as well.

Before going 40th overall to the Warriors in the 1978 NBA draft, the Milan, Georgia, native starred collegiately at the University of New Orleans.

Cooper appeared in 984 career NBA regular-season games from 1978 to 1992, averaging 7.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.6 steals per contest, while shooting 45.7 percent from the field.

He also averaged 5.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 74 playoff games, all of which occurred when he was with the Nuggets and Blazers.

The 6'10" Cooper spent two seasons in Portland from 1982 to '84 before a five-year stint in Denver. Cooper then finished up his career with the Blazers from 1989 to '92.

While Cooper was a backup during his final three seasons after being a starter for much of his career, he experienced a great deal of team success in Portland.

With Cooper coming off the bench, the Blazers reached the NBA Finals in both 1990 and 1992, although they fell short of winning a championship against the Detroit Pistons in '90 and Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls in '92.

After retiring as an active player, Cooper moved into an executive role and was the Sacramento Kings' vice president of basketball operations from 1996 through 2013.

With Cooper helping call the shots, the Kings went to the playoffs in eight straight seasons from 1998-99 through 2005-06.