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How His Father’s Assassination Molded NBA Coach Steve Kerr

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OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 17: Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors holds the NBA trophy on the plane as the team travels home from Cleveland after winning the 2015 NBA Finals on June 17, 2015 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors holds the trophy traveling home from Cleveland after winning the 2015 NBA Finals on June 17, 2015, in Oakland, California. (Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

 

Steve Kerr’s rise to the level of elite NBA head coach is anything but traditional. Before heading up the Golden State Warriors in 2014, Kerr had never coached at any level, let alone the NBA. And experts scoffed at him building his new team around an undersized guard. Against all odds, Kerr won a title in that first season, and that guard, Steph Curry, has become a three-point machine and superstar, collecting two MVP awards. (He’d also reach the finals in his second year, while earning Coach of the Year honors.) Which brings us to the current season, during which Kerr and the Warriors seem poised to add another title, having added superstar Kevin Durant, who’s made the Warriors into a veritable “super team.”

Of course, Kerr never fit the profile of an elite NBA player either. Somehow, a 6-foot-3-inch, 175-pound guard who was hardly a standout athlete in college, reached the NBA in ’88 and stuck around until ’03, winning three titles with the Bulls and two more with the Spurs.

In general, Kerr has thrived at basketball while being aware that life goes on beyond the court. This makes sense, given his upbringing—and the tragic event that helped shape him. Kerr was raised in the Middle East, and his father, Malcolm, who was the president of the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, was assassinated in 1984. It all happened when Kerr was just an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Arizona.

And so Kerr buried himself in basketball, helping to kick off his unlikely career. Notes The New York Times‘ John Branch, it didn’t come without its trials. In ’88, he endured the taunts of opposing fans, who bullied him to tears while on the court. “A group of students shouted, ‘P.L.O., P.L.O.,’ ‘Your father’s history,’ and ‘Why don’t you join the Marines and go back to Beirut?’… ‘When I heard it, I just dropped the ball and started shaking,’ Kerr said at the time.” Clearly, he never let those taunts get the better of him, and now look where he is.

To read the full profile, click here. Below, watch the highpoint of Kerr’s NBA career, as he hits a title-winning shot as a player. At bottom, watch him recount a less-than-enjoyable moment: the time Michael Jordan punched him in the face.

—RealClearLife Staff