'The Last Dance' shows Warriors' Steve Kerr deeply open heart, soul

'The Last Dance' shows Warriors' Steve Kerr deeply open heart, soul

The look on Steve Kerr’s face when recalling the longest day of his life conveyed it all.

Pure agony, still, 36 years later.

Now, after Episode Nine of the national fixation that was ESPN’s “The Last Dance” on Sunday night, we are reminded of what many have known for decades, that behind Kerr’s bright blue eyes lies a level of pain and perseverance that can only be generated in the wake of unspeakable personal tragedy.

Moreover, Episode Nine gave anyone with a soul a better understanding of Kerr. His engagement in social issues, particularly his crusade against gun violence, comes from the most honest of experiences. Nothing grips quite as tight as that which strikes the heart.

What could hit harder than waking up in his dorm room at 3 a.m. and getting a phone call informing him that his father had been killed?

“He just said, ‘Steve, I have terrible news,’” Kerr, recalling the phone call from a family friend, said on documentary.

His voice cracked. His chin dropped. His eyes moistened.

“So ... yeah.”

The horrible events of Jan. 18, 1984 were etched on Kerr’s face, coming through the screen. Dr. Malcolm Kerr was assassinated, really, in Beirut by terrorists that didn’t care that he’d come to the Middle East as an educator. That he was attempting to do a good deed in a place he knew was exceedingly dangerous and particularly hostile to Americans.

Steve was an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Arizona. Most of his family was in Beirut, with his father.

“I was still, relatively, a kid, just beginning to grow up,” Kerr told NBC Sports Bay Area in 2018. “And it shaped the way I thought about the world and disillusioned me in many ways.

“And everything that’s happened since, I’ve always had sort of had a big-picture, global perspective in life.”

Any parent that has lost a child to violence knows and understands. Any child that has lost a parent to violence knows and understands. Anyone who has lost a loved one to violence can bear witness to the suffering that follows. It lingers. Indefinitely.

Michael Jordan knows what it’s like. When his father, James Jordan, was murdered in 1993, it naturally shook MJ. Still does, to this day. But he grew up in the south, where gun culture is embraced. Which may explain why his dad’s death did not stir within the son a passion to rage against such crimes. Michael is, in case you’re new to the planet, different.

Kerr, to the contrary, grew up in an upper-middle-class family in Southern California yet is predisposed to activism. Education, politics and sports -- in that order -- dominated kitchen-table talk. Dr. Kerr was a professor of Middle East politics at UCLA. Fluent in Arabic, he wrote books on the subject. The Kerr family, Malcolm, Ann and their four children, moved often. Steve was born in Beirut and also lived in Egypt for three years.

“I was really lucky to grow up in a family that had a pretty wide view of the world,” Kerr said in 2018.

As drawn as Steve always was to matters affecting lives beyond his own and his family, his passion for activism escalated in the wake of his father’s death. Steve’s sensitivity toward others coping with tragedy is sincere, as is his desire to seek a path toward peace.

Promoting understanding and seeking peace were primary components of his father’s mission. In the 36 years since Malcolm Kerr died, his son has been a voice for progressive causes and equality, and a leading voice in the quest for sensible gun laws.

[RELATED: 'The Last Dance' confirms Kerr's message to 2018-19 Warriors]

Steve’s efforts draw praise in some quarters and no small amount of ridicule from America’s political right. He doesn’t care.

Malcolm Kerr has missed his middle son’s adult life. He did not see Steve rise from third-tier college recruit to All-Pac-10 status, from a 15-year NBA career that included five championship rings to a six-year coaching career with three more rings.

Steve Kerr’s basketball voyage has been incredible. One of his biggest regrets is that he has not been able to share a moment of it with his father.

So, the son is committed to doing what he can. He honors his father’s memory with actions his father would endorse. And one look at his face when reliving the loss of his father is enough to know how much it means to him.

Six under-radar free agents Warriors could pursue signing in offseason

Six under-radar free agents Warriors could pursue signing in offseason

The Warriors need to shore up their depth at key positions if they intend to make a run at the NBA title next season.

If Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are healthy next season, the front office will have to mix and match with what they already have filling out the roster, bringing in new additions with limited money to spend.The Warriors will only have the taxpayer mid-level exception and minimum contracts at their disposal to hand out to unrestricted free agents.

We already examined the guards, wings and big men who clearly could interest the Warriors. But what about the free agents who might not immediately catch your eye?

With limited salary-cap room at their disposal, perhaps those are the exact type of players the Warriors should pursue.


NBA rumors: Warriors wouldn't have let Steph Curry play in Orlando

NBA rumors: Warriors wouldn't have let Steph Curry play in Orlando

The NBA reportedly is considering creating a second "bubble" in Chicago for the eight teams that were not included in the Orlando bubble as part of the league's expanded playoff format. Warriors general manager Bob Myers said Thursday that Golden State potentially would participate, despite coach Steve Kerr previously insisting that the Dubs would not be interested in such a setup.

It remains to be seen if the second bubble actually will take place, but even if it does, it sure seems like you won't be seeing Steph Curry play in it. ESPN's Jackie MacMullan reported he wouldn't have played in Orlando had the Warriors qualified, and it begs the question as to why Chicago would be any different.

"I was told unequivocally by people at Golden State," MacMullan said Thursday on the "Hoop Collective" podcast, "if Golden State came back (to play in Orlando) they weren't gonna let Steph Curry step foot on the floor."

"The reason they were worried about Steph Curry," MacMullan added, "was because they didn't feel that he had played enough to come back."

So, there you have it. The Warriors arguably would have very little to gain from participating in the Chicago bubble, and given that there is no championship at stake -- like there is in Orlando -- Golden State doesn't have much motivation to send its star veteran players, especially those that are returning from injury.

Curry played in precisely one of the Warriors' final 61 games before the season was paused due to the coronavirus pandemic after returning from a broken wrist. And if he isn't going to play, you can bet Klay Thompson -- who would be returning from a torn ACL -- won't either.

[RELATED: Stephen A believes Warriors will return to title contention]

Draymond Green previously said that he would have played in Orlando, but if the Splash Brothers are out, why would Golden State risk the health of the other remaining piece of its championship core?

The Warriors need to find a way to stay in basketball shape and continue developing chemistry over what is going to be an extremely long layoff before the start of next season. But if Curry, Thompson and Green aren't involved, then that kind of ruins the whole point.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]