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Early WNBA Star Dies Too Young, But Is Remembered In The Rafters

Kim Perrot helped lead the Houston Comets to back-to-back WNBA titles in 1997 and 1998. She died of cancer during the 1999 season, but her legacy lives on.

Having a jersey retired by a team is considered to be one of the highest honors in all of sports. To some people, it means more than championships and points and records. A jersey retirement cements athletes in history as one of the best to ever compete in that organization.

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Kim Perrot competed as a player on the WNBA’s first dynasty, the Houston Comets. Perrot played alongside future Hall-of-Famers Sheryl Swoopes, Tina Thompson, and Cynthia Cooper. The Comets won the first four WNBA Championships in the league’s existence, including its first two titles with Perrot on the floor. 

During her playing career, many would say that Perrot was overshadowed by the talent of her teammates. But as many would come to learn, Perrot was a star in her own right. 

Perrot was a spectacular passer. The Comets champion-caliber offense ran directly through her, and as their point guard, they won the first two WNBA Championships in 1997 and 1998. She was a fiery leader on the court, and she was not scared to get a little chippy when the time called for it. 

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After the 1998 season, Perrot was ready to embark on the quest for a third sraight championship. Unfortunately, her health didn;t feel the same way.

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Perrot was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1998. It had spread to her brain, requiring her to get surgery to remove the tumors. The tumors in her brain had returned in August of 1999, and ultimately caused her death. Seven months into her battle with cancer, Kim Perrot passed away. She was 32 years old. 

Her passing shocked the basketball world. At that point in the Comets season, they were gearing up for playoffs. The team’s attitude had changed completely, and winning a third championship for Perrot became the priority. 

Tammy Jackson, a Comets veteran and appointed team spokesperson told the Washington Post that “Kim wouldn’t want us to look at it any other way. Kim is with us in spirit. We’re winning it for her. We’re winning it for us and for the Houston community.”

And that’s exactly what they did. The Comets went on to secure the three-peat championship with a 56-47 win over the New York Liberty. The crowd chanted “Three for Kim!”as the final seconds ticked away.  Cooper, who was one of Perrot’s closest friends and the Finals MVP, proudly held up Perrot’s No. 10 jersey to the crowd in celebration. Perrot was also officially credited with her third WNBA Championship even though she sat out during the season. 

“We said that Kim wasn’t here physically, but she was definitely here in spirit,” Swoopes said after the game, according to The Undefeated. “She will always be a part of the Comets.

In July 2000, the Houston Comets retired Perrot’s No. 10 jersey, the first player in WNBA history to be awarded the honor. Although the Comets folded in 2008, her jersey still hangs in the rafters of the Toyota Center in Houston where the Houston Rockets of the NBA play.

In addition to her jersey being retired, the league renamed its sportsmanship award after Perrot in 2000. The award goes to a player who “exemplifies the ideals of sportsmanship on the court, including ethical behavior, fair play and integrity.”  Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike most recently won the award in 2019. 

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