“The Last Dance” documentary concluded on the evening of May 17th. It is easily one of the best ESPN has put forth in its long history, detailing the rise and fall of the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s. Everybody who watched that team knew the focus of the 10-part series was going to be Michael Jordan. He was its heart after all. However, there were a lot of other key contributors with their own unique stories. None more so than Steve Kerr.
Fans today know him best as the head coach of the Golden State Warriors. Bulls fans remember him as one of the best 3-point shooters of his era and the guy who clinched the 1997 NBA Finals. What they never really knew was his personal background. How Kerr came from a tragic upbringing.
Like Jordan, he had lost his father to a tragic shooting. In 1984, Malcolm Kerr was president of the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. It was there he was brutally gunned down by two men posing as students. Neither were caught. Kerr explained how the news struck him. Not knowing what else to do, he threw himself into basketball like never before.
Eventually he was drafted in the 2nd round by Phoenix. Five years later, he signed with the Bulls as a free agent. The rest is history.
Steve Kerr had to earn the respect of Jordan
When asked if Kerr ever told Jordan about his father’s death, especially knowing what happened to Jordan’s father, he said no. Instead the undersized guard had to earn the respect of the living legend by standing up to him. During one practice, Jordan got in his face constantly. Insults were flying. Finally Kerr snapped and punched him in the chest. Jordan responded by clocking him in the eye.
Crazy as it sounds, that confrontation seemed to clear the air between the two. Jordan was impressed that Kerr had enough guts to stand up to him. That helped strengthened their bond of trust, which eventually led to the iconic moment when the two connected for that Finals-clincher in ’97. This should be a good reminder that while Kerr may not have had Jordan’s talent, he fought through just as much to find his success.