The ninth episode Sunday night of the ESPN documentary series about Michael Jordan — “The Last Dance” — included a brief segment on Steve Kerr’s background dating back to his days as a ball boy at Pauley Pavilion when John Wooden was coaching at UCLA in the early 1970’s.
Kerr, who was not recruited much out of Pacific Palisades (Calif.) High School, said in the documentary that he chose to attend Arizona without visiting Tucson and the campus first. He signed late in the process with Lute Olson before the Hall of Fame coach began his first season here in 1983-84.
After Kerr arrived in Tucson, his father Malcolm Kerr moved to Beirut, Lebanon, with his mom Ann and brother after the elder Kerr became the president of the American University of Beirut.
Kerr recounted in “The Last Dance” when he learned his father was assassinated by a militia called the Islamic Jihad on the morning of Jan. 18, 1984. The elder Kerr was only 52 at the time of his death, two years younger than what Kerr is now.
Awoken by a phone call from a family friend at 3 a.m. in his dorm room, Kerr said heard the person say, “Steve, I have terrible news.”
His voice cracked in front of the cameras. His chin dropped. Tears formed in his eyes.
“So … yeah.”
The interviewer of the documentary led off the segment asking Kerr if he ever talked with Jordan about their fathers both getting murdered.
“We never discussed that,” Kerr said. “I think it was probably too painful for each of us.”
Steve Kerr started from the bottom and now he here: pic.twitter.com/dx5PEMrawo
— HoopBlogger (@HoopBlogs) May 18, 2020
Kerr played against ASU at McKale Center two days after his father’s death. He played 25 minutes and made 5 of 7 jumpers from the field and both of his free throw attempts to finish with 12 points in Arizona’s 71-49 win over ASU — snapping a 10-game losing streak to the Sun Devils. After a moment of silence, the game started and Kerr came into the game as a reserve and knocked down his first jumper.
“Basketball was the one thing I could do to take my mind off what happened,” Kerr said in the documentary. “So I went to practice the next day (after his father died). I didn’t know what else to do.”
The “Last Dance” then shifted to Kerr’s game-winning jump shot in Game 6 of the 1997 NBA Finals against Utah, the play in which Jordan warned Kerr in the huddle during a timeout to be ready for the shot because John Stockton would likely try to double-team him. Kerr exclaimed, “I’ll be ready!” He drilled it from about the free throw line.
The following are some social media reactions about Kerr after Sunday night’s portion of Episode No. 9 of “The Last Dance.”
Kerr is in position to join Olson in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Did you know that Steve Kerr has 8 championship rings?
3x with the Bulls (96, 97, 98)
2x with the Spurs (99, 03)
3x with the Warriors as head coach (15, 17, 18) pic.twitter.com/L7EintLszF
— CrownHoops (@CrownHoops) May 18, 2020
Steve Kerr is the only player in the last 50 years to win four straight NBA titles. pic.twitter.com/eiqduRMHCu
— Basketball Forever (@Bballforeverfb) May 19, 2020
What a career Steve Kerr has had:
▪️3-peat with Bulls (1996-1998)
▪️2x winner with Spurs (1999, 2003)
▪️3 rings as a coach (2015, 2017, 2018)
▪️72-win season as a player
▪️73-win season as a coach
▪️Highest career 3P% in NBA history (.454) pic.twitter.com/oS0xDpA09H
— Top Ball Coverage (@TopBallCoverage) May 18, 2020
Kerr’s only official recruiting trip was to Gonzaga, where he happened to play against Stockton with a much different outcome than Game 6 in 1997.
1988 reporting on Steve Kerr’s recruitment out of HS (from Feinstein’s “A Season Inside”) pic.twitter.com/y25hgy1RV7
— Anchorage Man (@SethPartnow) May 19, 2020
No girls and no recruiters. No problem.
Steve Kerr with one of the best lines from the entire “Last Dance” when he was asked about his recruitment coming out of high school: “Very little. About the same attention I was getting from girls in high school. So not many girls, not many college recruiters.” 🤣 pic.twitter.com/8rfVeQwcmv
— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) May 18, 2020
“Immerse yourself in the things you love and the people you love & keep moving” — Kerr
Often find myself coming back to this @ramonashelburne profile of @SteveKerr. His quote, “Immerse yourself in the things you love and the people you love, & keep moving“ struck me so much that I wrote it on a Post-It and stuck it to my desk. #TheLastDance https://t.co/IHn3EssFeX
— Julia Brown (@juliabrown514) May 19, 2020
This speech has been and always will be a historic moment showing the humble nature of an overlooked guard coming out of high school roasting the greatest player the game has known.
Steve Kerr’s speech roasting MJ was 🔥
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) May 18, 2020
Almost like ruining a surprise party.
MJ was trying to be lowkey, and Steve Kerr shouts, “I’ll be ready!”😂pic.twitter.com/ZGuz8JuFn9
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) May 18, 2020
I think we were all like this last night, some 23 years after Kerr nailed the jumper against Utah.
Steve Kerr hitting that shot pic.twitter.com/ETVaBgCW7a
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) May 18, 2020
The stuff of legends.
Dec. 1987: My first big assignment was going to Arizona for a story on the undefeated Wildcats. I’m 23. Part of the story is asking Steve Kerr about the loss of his dad. He’s 22. He handled it with such grace. Been an admirer ever since.
— Pat Forde (@ByPatForde) May 18, 2020
Attended game at McKale in @SteveKerr‘s first game after dad assassinated. Remember moment of silence before game so quiet. Could practically hear lights buzzing. All eyes on Kerr. Head bowed staring at floor. Hit first jumper. Tension lifted. Spirit flowing. Legend began. pic.twitter.com/ZIKyPalYls
— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) May 18, 2020
When brushes with greatness makes you just as great.
Steve Kerr played with prime Michael Jordan and prime Tim Duncan. He was coached by Lute Olson, Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich. He was GM for Steve Nash and Shaq. He broadcasted with Marv Albert and Jim Nantz. He’s coached Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.
— Jeff Eisenband (@JeffEisenband) May 18, 2020
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.