Photo credit: Upper Deck basketball card
The headline of this story says it all but it’s better to listen to the late Roger Sedlmayr announce it when Steve Kerr drilled a shot from “three-point laaand”, as Kerr sang in the famous “Wild About the Cats” video.
Kerr’s No. 25 is retired at Arizona as it should be. Nobody can wear that number — better yet, that role — that Kerr provided as an inspirational leader.
This guy overcame being a low-level recruit, the assassination of his father in Lebanon, a career-threatening knee injury and the tag that he was too slow to make it big in basketball. The great equalizers: His moxie and his shot. Oh, his shot. Look at his career three-point percentage at Arizona: 57.3 percent. It was shocking when he missed.
Kerr’s character made him similar to a comic book hero in Tucson. John Feinstein wrote it best in his book “A Season Inside: One Year in College Basketball”:
“Steve Kerr munched on the chocolate chip cookie, kicked his feet up and let his body relax. At least for a minute. He had a couple of hours to rest before he had to venture from his apartment once again, duck into a nearby phone booth and emerge as that great superhero, Steeeeeve Kerrrrrrr, defender of truth, justice, and the basketball whenever Arizona had it.”
Kerr had the look of a choir boy but he was an intense competitor. Why else would the fierce Michael Jordan take a liking to him? Jordan even punched Kerr in practice once when they were Bulls teammates because Kerr did not back down from something Jordan told him.
Feinstein took me to the memory bank with the recollection of Kerr’s run-in with former Oregon coach Don Monson during a game at McKale Center in Kerr’s senior season of 1987-88, when the Cats advanced to the Final Four.
Monson was whistled for a technical in the second half of Arizona’s 89-57 rout. Kerr went to the line for the two shots. He uncharacteristically bricked the first one and the ball bounced right to Monson.
Not wanting to throw the ball to the official because he was still angry from the technical, Monson zipped the ball to Kerr. In the heat of the moment, angry over missing the free throw, Kerr threw the ball back at Monson, who had turned and walked away.
Startled, Monson stared devilishly at Kerr, who stared right back.
Kerr, never short of witty commentary (he is an established NBA and college basketball announcer), told Feinstein: “(Monson) didn’t do a very good job of coming to meet my pass.”
Knowing Kerr’s grit, it’s understandable why he responded to news of his father’s murder by terrorists in Lebanon in 1984 with a 15-point performance as an 18-year-old freshman against ASU two days later in what was Lute Olson’s first Pac-10 victory. Kerr also scorched the Sun Devils with 20 first-half points in Tempe as a senior when drunken ASU fans chanted “PLO, PLO, PLO” during pregame warmups, mocking the death of his father, who was the president of American University in Beirut.
Kerr maintains a vision of his father, which continues to help him succeed.
“To play my whole career without my dad ever seeing me play is something I think about pretty often,” Kerr told the USA Today in a 2011 article. “But I also think in a strange way, he was helping the process along.”
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