Remembering Kim Perrot - 14 years laterAugust 20, 2013
A tough competitor, consummate professional, a great heart and an amazing person were words used to describe Houston Comets point guard Kim Perrot, who lost her battle with lung cancer fourteen years ago yesterday. She was 32.
Perrot faced adversity head on, including when she joined the now-defunct Comets organization back in 1997. The organization had already selected Sheryl Swoopes, Cynthia Cooper, Janeth Arcain and Wanda Guyton by the time Les Alexander hired Van Chancellor as the team's head coach. Open tryouts were held with over two hundred prospects vying for the few available roster spots.
As Chancellor recalled at her memorial service, "I set out to St. Thomas High School to find a point guard. I didn't know anybody. I didn't know who we were going to pick, but let's find somebody. I get over there and found a lot of point guards I liked personally, and I find one point guard that I do not like. I think she's too wild and too small and too everything. I had a committee of twelve. Eleven of them wanted to keep her and I didn't, but I went with them, thank God."
With Perrot running point, Houston's "Big Three" of Cooper, Swoopes and Thompson were able to thrive during the first two seasons in the league's existence, all the way to the first two of four WNBA championships. After her cancer diagnosis and subsequent passing, the 1999 season was dedicated to her as "#3 for #10" was the team's rallying cry.
"Who would have thought Kim Perrot would be a two-time WNBA champion?" Perrot said when she accepted her second championship ring during a Comets home game in 1999. "When no one else believed in me, my teammates and the fans stuck with me."
At 5-foot-5, weighing 130 pounds, she was an unlikely champion even after a record-setting college career at the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now University of Louisiana at Lafayette), where she held 26 school records and finished with 2,157 points.
Perrot played professionally in Europe for six seasons before her tryout with Chancellor's Comets organization.
"She was a fighter. I watched Kim for many years overseas. She was the smallest person on the court, but again, had the biggest heart," recalled Lynette Woodward during a 2011 edition of WNBA Legends Roundtable, along with Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson. "This is what the league did for us. It let the world know who she was. Just think, if we didn't have the league, nobody would know Kim Perrot the way that we do."
About her former teammate, Swoopes said, "I think for us, it brought us closer. But it also changed the way you looked at the game. You really appreciated what you have and how you just appreciated life."
"She was totally the glue," said Thompson, recalling those two special seasons. "She made sure that everybody was okay, all the time."
Even though fourteen years have passed since Perrot's death, she has not been forgotten by the few players who are still playing in the WNBA that were around during her tenure.
"I never had the opportunity of playing with her, but playing against her. Just seeing her outside of the scouting report, she was someone very pivotal for the Houston Comets success," said New York Liberty forward Delisha Milton-Jones. "She was the glue. She was the one that was the calm within the storm. She kept all of the chaos kind of at bay, or at a level where everyone could function. She was like a magnet that drew people to her and just had this infectious personality. Even though she was small in stature and had a light voice, her words were very profound and they were always at the right moment."
"I was so young back then and wasn't into deep conversation. But we knew the one girl who played for Houston, that she was really sick. It was a sad situation for the league, most definitely for the Comets. For a team to battle a loss of that magnitude, it really takes a toll on you," Milton-Jones said.
Even though Kim Perrot was a few years older than her and their paths didn't cross much, Liberty guard Katie Smith recalled, "I've always heard great things about her. I barely even met her, but all I heard were amazing things about how special she was. From afar, watching the relationships that other people had with her and how she was such a good person. All I heard from Tina [Thompson] and others was just how much they cared about her. She must have had a total genuine spirit that was contagious."
In 2000, the WNBA named its annual sportsmanship award after Perrot. The 2005 recipient, Taj McWilliams-Franklin, recalled, "I think everyone around the bend would say that she was an amazing person. I was grateful to have won the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award once in my career. It was a very amazing moment. I always pride myself to be gracious whether in winning or in losing. I think Kim was the fiercest competitor, but always gracious in person by giving, loving and accepting. That's the memory and legacy that she established which is why that award means so much to me."
At Perrot's Memorial Service that was held at Houston's Second Baptist Church, teammate Cynthia Cooper said, "She was so special to me that no one will ever understand how much she actually gave me. She allowed me to be - me, and she was still my friend. I allowed Kim to be - Kim, and we were still buddies. I allowed Kim to cry. And she allowed me to cry too. Although I hurt, I heard a lot of things about Kim today, but I haven't heard about her heart and how much she loved God, how much she loved people, and how passionate she was about every single thing she did. The reason she touched so many lives is because Kim had a great heart."
Cooper continued, "We cared about Kim as a person. We just really loved her, not Kim the basketball player but Kim the person. When she went out to speak to different kids or any particular group, and that showed in her. That bright light was just shining all over her, and she really cared about the people that she was speaking to. My best friend has passed on to a better life."
Chancellor remarked, "I wouldn't be here today if she would have fought me when I mis-coached her and I didn't do what I was supposed to do right. If she would have fought me, we never would have won a championship and Les [Alexander] would have been hunting for another coach, so I understand that. I will always be grateful to her."
"And what a fun person," he added. "What a great time and a great joy for a lot of us. There just will never be another Kim Perrot in my mind. There just never will be. I want to leave you with this - I thought about God kind of held her hand through this illness. And when he came, he put her in His arms. Here's what He said, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant.'"
In her two year career with the Comets, Perrot appeared in 58 regular season games, starting all but four of them, and racked up 415 points, 230 assists, 167 rebounds and 153 steals. She played in seven post-season contests and recorded 57 points, 29 assists, 25 rebounds and 14 steals.
Even in death, Kim Perrot's legacy and influence on the WNBA continues. She was posthumously awarded a third championship ring. When the Comets retired her jersey, she became the first player in the WNBA to have her number retired. Additionally, Comets fans raised money to create "Kim's Place," at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, as a place where children with cancer can play games, sports and relax. While she was ill, Perrot continued making public appearances and giving motivational speeches at schools.
Her grave at Our Lady of the Assumption Cemetery in Carencro, Louisiana, bears the following inscription: God Wanted Me Now. Faith, Hope, Love, Charity & Family."