”It's sad when a basketball coach is more eloquent, intelligent, and decisive about this tragedy than every politician in this country.” That was the summation of Steve Kerr's emotional plea to the nation after yet another school shooting that claimed the lives of 19 children and 2 teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Unfortunately, Kerr has a personal reason for being so passionate about gun violence. He looked tragedy and misfortune right in the eye when his father, Malcolm Kerr, was murdered in Beirut. That moment changed Kerr forever, and the way he handled this personal tragedy gives Kerr every right to lead the national conversation on the topic. Particularly the way he handled the worst possible trash-talking a basketball game has ever seen - with class and pride.
Crossing way over the line
The tragedy occurred in 1984, when Steve Kerr was just a freshman in Arizona. His father was a university professor specializing in the Middle East and the Arab world. Serving as the president of the American University of Beirut, Malcolm Kerr was shot in the hallway outside his office.
Two nights after the death of his father, Kerr shed tears during a moment of silence before tipoff. He then wiped away his tears, came off the bench and knocked his first jumper. He finished 5-of-7 that night amid carrying the burden of losing the most important man of his life.
It seemed as if Kerr’s worries were put aside when he stepped onto the hardcourt. Unfortunately, this didn’t last long. Malcolm Kerr’s death only remained taboo for a couple of years to spineless basketball hecklers.
“But in 1988, as Kerr was a fifth-year senior recovering from a torn ACL, the court was a sanctuary no more. During warm-ups before a game at Arizona State, some 10 to 15 fans hit him with a series of subhuman chants that included "P-L-O" and "Where's your dad?" per ESPN.
Kerr’s wounds were still fresh. He ran back to the bench, and his eyes were welled with tears. He took some time to shed his emotions. We can say he needed that moment to turn the fans’ hate into fuel.
The guard dropped 20 points out of his 22 points in the first half alone. He also was 6-of-6 from downtown. It seems that his performance propelled his stock enough to become an NBA player.
"There's no question they made me play my best," Kerr said that night.
This is why he’s one of the most outspoken NBA figures on social issues that continue to hound the nation. Kerr made the headlines after his impassioned speech on the Texas shooting at an elementary school.
This isn’t the first time Kerr has shared his piece on such issues. In private with his players, he reportedly makes them read books that do not necessarily concern basketball but have a wide range of interesting topics.
The Warriors even made a trip to the National Museum of African American History and Culture with local students in 2018. It was a reaction to then US President Donald Trump withdrawing the invite to the White House.
Perhaps Kerr aims to teach his players that the world does not just revolve around basketball. The sport forms a minuscule role in the world’s development. As NBA players, it’s only proper to use their stature to share social awareness with its viewers. What better cause to champion than the safety of 8 and 9-yea-olds in schools.