“Here is one of the marvels of the athletic world. Cooper, now around 33, has been on top in the basketball world as the game’s greatest center since the mid-twenties when he broke in with the Rens after a celebrated debut around Philadelphia.”
— Art Carter, Baltimore Afro-American, 1942
Teams: Philadelphia Panthers, New York Renaissance, Washington Bears
Charles “Tarzan” Cooper was considered perhaps the greatest center of his time. He played from the mid-1920s through the mid-1940s.
Cooper, a Philadelphia native, starred in the Christian Street YMCA’s Senior Interscholastic League before joining the all-black Philadelphia Panthers semi-pro team in 1926.
His size (6′-5″, 215 lbs.) and tenacious rebounding produced the nickname “Long Boy” and then “Tarzan.”
Cooper joined the New York Rens in 1929, leading them to an 88-game winning streak in 1933 and a World’s Championship title in 1939.
In 1941, Cooper left the Rens to sign a better-paying contract with the all-black Washington Bears and led them to a World’s Championship in 1943.
He was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1977, as the first African American player to be inducted as an individual.