‘Shining for our city’: Philly honors WNBA Finals MVP Kahleah Copper

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney presents a Liberty Bell award to Kahleah Copper, the 2021 WNBA Finals MVP, at a ceremony at City Hall. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney presents a Liberty Bell award to Kahleah Copper, the 2021 WNBA Finals MVP, at a ceremony at City Hall. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Philadelphia officially recognized the 2021 WNBA Finals MVP Kahleah Copper on Monday, with gifts and an official citation.

Copper, who grew up in North Philly, helped boost the Chicago Sky over the Phoenix Mercury, 80 to 74, in game four to win their first ever championship.

In the City Hall courtyard, the Philadelphia 76ers drumline, the Sixers Stixers, opened the ceremony.

Copper credited her support system in Philadelphia with helping her get where she did.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor
Kahleah Copper, the 2021 WNBA Finals MVP, and a Philadelphia native, thanks the city that raised her during a ceremony at City Hall honoring her accomplishment. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

“Parents here, y’all were giving me rides to practices, to AAU [Amateur Athletic Union] games … y’all took care of me,” she said.

Growing up, Copper described playing against boys on 32nd Street. “That’s where I get my toughness from, my Philly swag,” she said.

Copper attended Girard College, Prep Charter, and then went to Rutgers University’s women’s basketball program. Drafted by the Washington Mystics in 2016, she got traded to Chicago in 2017.

Young basketball fans gather at Philadelphia City Hall courtyard for a ceremony honoring Kahleah Copper, the 2021 WNBA Finals MVP, and a Philadelphia native. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The Windy City team won its first championship this year. During the postseason, Copper led her team in scoring, averaging 17.7 points per game, and shot 52%, according to ESPN.

Copper said she hoped her win would help inspire other young athletes to work hard, and “be great.” She posed for pictures and signed autographs for young players who came out to support her from area schools.

Sabrina Allen, her former coach at Girard, said she did something none of the male NBA players from Philly have done: get a Finals MVP.

Everywhere Copper goes, Allen continued, she’s “just a girl from North Philly, out there shining for our city.”

Allen said she hoped Copper’s star would nudge the powers that be to one day bring a women’s basketball team to Philadelphia. Other speakers, including the Mayor, talked about Copper’s importance as a role model for young girls who want to pursue sports scholarships or play professionally.

Jerzy Caesar, 9, (right) gets her basketball shirt signed by Kahleah Copper, the 2021 WNBA Finals MVP, and Philadelphia native, who was honored during a ceremony at City Hall courtyard. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

“This is a terrific route, but it’s a lot of hard work. … [athletes] have to work hard with the books, they have to work hard on the court, they have to work hard being a great teammate,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. He presented Copper with a miniature Liberty Bell.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor
Isaiah Thomas presents Kahleah Copper with a shirt
Philadelphia City Council member Isaiah Thomas presents Kahleah Copper, the 2021 WNBA Finals MVP, with a shirt, flowers and a Council proclamation durin a ceremony honoring the Philadelphia native at City Hall courtyard. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Councilmember-at-large Isaiah Thomas presented Copper with a citation honoring and congratulating Copper as “champion of the week,” and an MVP jersey, on behalf of City Council.

“We are so proud of you. This is the equivalent of the keys to the City of Philadelphia,” said Thomas.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal