Chicago Bulls

Steve Kerr 'a little' disappointed by key absences in 'The Last Dance'

Steve Kerr 'a little' disappointed by key absences in 'The Last Dance'

No matter when they watched "The Last Dance," basketball fans noticed a few missing faces.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr did, too. Kerr, who played on the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls team that was the subject of the 10-part documentary, wanted to see more of two starters from that squad. 

“It was a little disappointing that a couple of guys, Luc Longley and Ron Harper, didn’t get a whole lot of coverage," Kerr said earlier this week on "The Bill Simmons Podcast" (H/T Essentially Sports). "But you can only do so much obviously, and Luke lives in remote western Australia.”

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Harper started all 82 games for the '97-98 Bulls, and the former guard started no fewer than 74 games during each of the Bulls' title-winning teams from 1995-96 to '97-98. But the guard's most memorable appearance in the documentary came in reference to his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Harper recalled saying "Yeah, f--k this bulls--t" when then-Cavs coach Lenny Wilkens asked Craig Ehlo, not Harper, to guard Michael Jordan on the final possession during Game 5 of a first-round playoff series with the Bulls.

Jordan, of course, proceeded to hit one of the most iconic buzzer-beaters and eliminate Cleveland with Ehlo guarding him.

The documentary centered on Jordan's experience above all, and Longley wasn't even as much as a one-off talking head. The former center was the first Australian to play in the NBA and arguably had the best season of his career when NBA Entertainment's cameras followed the dynastic Bulls during their last run together, but his appearances in the documentary consisted entirely of archival footage.

Kerr had a sizeable role in the documentary, with the filmmakers shining a light on his upbringing, the death of his father and his "fight" with Jordan. The Golden State coach said he's still good friends with Longley, and he quipped to Simmons there wasn't enough room in the documentary's reported $20 million budget to make the trip to see the big man.

"I don’t know what the budget was for ‘The Last Dance,’ but it wasn’t big enough to fly to remote western Australia ... and go interview him," Kerr joked. "But I would have liked to see him and Ron get a little more love just because they were starters and huge players on those teams.”

[RELATED: Draymond takes offense to Chuck's 3-point shooter comment]

Travel would've been impossible due to restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, but ESPN pushing up the documentary's original June airdate to April meant that the filmmakers were still working on it as the series aired. A Longley appearance via video chat would've been jarring, considering how every other interviewee's shots were set up.

Considering the documentary's ubiquity plus Longley's (and Harper's) lack of screen time, Kerr wouldn't have minded much.

How Steve Kerr's time with 'Last Dance' Bulls helped him with Warriors

How Steve Kerr's time with 'Last Dance' Bulls helped him with Warriors

Steve Kerr is spending the offseason, the long, extended offseason, re-evaluating the Warriors' program.

After five straight trips to the NBA Finals, the Warriors sunk to the bottom of the NBA with Steph Curry playing only five games and Klay Thompson missing the entire season. But both stars will be healthy and rested next season when the Warriors hope to begin another dynastic run. The gap year has allowed Kerr to take a step back and plan for the future.

As a member of the "The Last Dance" Chicago Bulls, Kerr didn't have the ability to sit back and take the 1000-foot view of the Bulls' accomplishments before starting the next phase. It just ended. But he does believe his time with that team helped him navigate the perils the Warriors have faced.

“There’s a reason it was called ‘The Last Dance’ before the season, and not after,” Kerr told The Athletic's David Aldridge on the "Hoops, Adjacent" podcast. “… And, to be honest -- and I think Phil (Jackson) said this in the documentary -- it felt over. In retrospect, it’s easy to look back and say, ‘Man, why didn’t they keep it going?’ But at the time, it felt like everybody was exhausted, and the team had already, management had already decided what they were going to do. So we didn’t spend any time looking forward to what might have been. I think everybody just kind of went their separate ways.

“But I think that experience really did help me, coaching our own group in Golden State over the last few years. ‘Cause I was really able to think about the fatigue, the emotional and the spiritual fatigue, that sets in when you’re trying to do something year after year like we did in Chicago, and again in Golden State. So that experience really came in handy for me as a coach.”

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By the time the 2018-19 season rolled around, it was clear the Warriors were running slow, the exhaustion of four straight Finals trips weighing heavy on their minds and bodies. The constant questions surrounding the future of Kevin Durant only exacerbated the exhaustion.

In the moment, it felt like that was the final hurrah for that group, win or lose. There's no doubt a healthy Warriors team likely would have completed the threepeat. But Steph Curry and Draymond Green, the two stars left standing in final moments of that iteration of the dynasty, emptied the tank as champions do, throwing everything they had at the Toronto Raptors to force a decisive Game 7. But it wasn't to be.

[RELATED: Steph, Kerr's greatness proved Lacob's 'light years' quip true]

The Last Dance Bulls ended as champions, with Michael Jordan's game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals being the lasting memory of that run. They finished as champions, but ones who never got to defend their title.

The Curry-Durant Warriors were defeated not by management hubris, petty differences or cheap ownership, but by injuries and exhaustion. While Jordan and the Bulls are left to wonder if a seventh title could have been theirs, the Warriors were left with no haunting what-ifs. They achieved everything they set out to accomplish, and only the weight on continued excellence, injuries and exhaustion toppled their dynasty.

Kerr, Curry, Thompson and Green now get the chance to reinvent themselves again, and start a new dynasty in the remaining years of their prime.

Kerr and the Warriors have been able to soak in and fully appreciate the greatness of their run during the down year. Now, the work begins again for the Warriors' championship core.

Steve Kerr's shorts from NBA Finals game-winning shot up for auction

Steve Kerr's shorts from NBA Finals game-winning shot up for auction

With 5.0 seconds remaining in Game 6 of the 1997 NBA Finals between the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz, Steve Kerr hit the jump shot that delivered the Bulls their fifth NBA title in a seven-year span.

And if you're looking to get your hands on the shorts that the Warriors' coach was wearing when he played the role of hero, you're in luck.

They are available through the Lelands Spring Classic Auction, with a portion of the proceeds going to coronavirus relief efforts.

The most recent bid -- $1,650 -- was submitted Thursday night. The auction ends June 19 at 8:00 p.m. PT.

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Here is part of the description:

White Champion shorts feature a Size 36 tag in waist with Kerr’s number “25” handwritten in black with a Bulls exclusive tag that reads, “Rise +2 and Inseam +2.” Inside the shorts on the rear seam there is a “1996-1997” wash tag that shows significant wear; drawstring appears to be original.

Covered in champagne stains from the locker room victory celebration, these historic shorts have also been signed by Steve Kerr in black prominently in the front.

[RELATED: Kerr believes NBA will allow Warriors to hold 'minicamp']

During ESPN's "The Last Dance" documentary, Kerr discussed his mindset leading up to the most memorable moment of his NBA career.

"Phil (Jackson) calls timeout and Michael (Jordan) knew what was coming," Kerr explained. "Earlier in the series -- in a very similar situation late in a game -- John Stockton had come over and doubled him and stolen the ball, which helped seal the win for Utah.

"He mumbled something like, 'Hey Steve, Hey Steve -- be ready.' He knew the camera was always on him, and I'm like oblivious, yelling back, 'I'll be ready! I'll be ready (laughter)!' "

And ready he was.

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