“Everybody in the United Center is on their feet. It is Michael Jordan time.” With 28 seconds remaining and the scored tied at 86, the Bulls had a chance to win their 5th title in Game 6. Everyone on Earth knew the ball would go to MJ. Only MJ and Steve Kerr knew the plan was to get Kerr an open shot. Nothing but net.
That shot made Kerr immortal for Bulls fans. He made one of the biggest shots in Bulls history and was a part of one of the most unexpected plays in NBA history. Kerr would end his playing career with five NBA titles; three with the Bulls and two with the Spurs. After that, he was the GM of the D’Antoni-Nash Phoenix Suns and won three more titles as the coach of the Golden State Warriors. Kerr’s career made him not only known to basketball fans but your averagely informed human.
That made him the perfect fourth banana next to Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman on a lot of the promos for “The Last Dance.” Someone an average person can see and go “Wait a minute. I didn’t know the Warriors coach was on a team with MJ!” That’s just smart PR. As much as he understands the thinking behind it, Steve Kerr is a bit embarrassed about it.
“I’m almost embarrassed; I see these graphics for the Last Dance, these promos. And they have Michael, they have Scottie, Dennis, Phil…and me. You know the ones I’m talking about. And I understand it, the reason I’m on there is because I’m the one who’s famous because I’m a coach of the Warriors, so people recognize me and maybe people wouldn’t recognize Toni Kukoč or Luc Longley or Ron Harper…maybe their faces wouldn’t mean as much to a young generation because this was 22 years ago, but that should really be Toni, I think on that photo, on that promo because he was an incredible player.”Steve Kerr, The Lowe Post
Kerr didn’t just say it because Toni was the fourth-best player on that team, a perennial 6th man, and could’ve been an All-Star somewhere else. Kukoč was labeled as ‘Jerry’s guy’ from the beginning due to the way he came to the Bulls. Jordan and Pippen were jealous and mad that Krause spent so much time luring him from Europe. Despite all that, he came in and showed up big in big moments.
At the end of the ’98 season, Jackson organized a dinner for players and their wives. It was the last time they were together. During the evening, Phil took all the players to a separate area and had everyone give a toast, saying their final goodbye. After all that they went through, Steve Kerr decided his last words would be a toast to Toni Kukoč, the unsung hero of those Bulls.