By Taylor Cooper
A legacy is a difficult concept to grasp. A legacy is based off of what the driving force is behind many of our decisions and actions we make. We rush through life trying to get to big defining moments and often forget what we did to get there. We forget that the in-between steps are the steps that really define our legacy.
On August 4, my grandfather, Rick Cooper, passed away. He was diagnosed with Colon Cancer in October 2015. During his first surgery to treat the cancer, his left leg had to be amputated due to vascular disease. The ups and downs through his fight with cancer was hard for both my family and I. My parents, my sister and my brother were at home in Shawnee, Oklahoma, dealing with this on a daily basis, but I was six hours away from home. Despite all the phone calls, text messages and face-time calls, it was difficult to handle that I couldn’t be there every day to help. Whenever we had a break from basketball or school, Coach Blair and our coaching staff would always let me go home to spend what time that I could with my Papa. Whatever time we had left, we would spend it together.
Our family has been very blessed with athletic ability and talent, and basketball was always something special that I shared with my grandpa. He played basketball at Oklahoma State from 1967-70 under for Hall of Fame Coach, Mr. Henry Iba. He was the leading scorer during Mr. Iba’s final season, and scored the final bucket of Mr. Iba’s coaching career in a 77-61 Bedlam win over Oklahoma.
One of his favorite pastimes was watching his grandchildren compete. I remember coming into the locker room after every game to either a text message or a voicemail from my Papa. If I had played a good game, he would text that he was proud of me and loved me. If I had a not-so-good game, he would leave me a message saying to call him. The best was when I had played a great game, I didn’t get a text message or a voicemail—I got a handshake.
He always wanted what was best for me. I remember when I was little; he used to always drive me to AAU practice, getting there thirty minutes to an hour early. We would pull in the parking lot, and I knew it was time to put on my sneakers. He was a stickler for doing the little things the right way. Everything from addressing people with “sir & ma’am” and how to look people in the eyes when they are talking to you. My grandpa was all about respect, and showing how to give people respect. He was an old-school type of guy.
My Papa taught me to be a good person first. He always said that my athletic ability would fade over time, but my ability to effect those around me by my actions and choices would never fade. He taught me to be the good I want to see in others and to make a difference. My grandpa was about competition, respect, and love. Those three characteristics not only apply to basketball, but also define my everyday outlook on life.
In honor of his memory, I will dedicate my final basketball season at Texas A&M to my Papa. I will never forget August 4, 2016, because it was a moment in my life that is going to define who I am, as a grand-daughter, sister, daughter, teammate and woman. I am my grandfather’s legacy now, and it is up to me to keep it going.