Kerr Reminisces About Jordan, Robinson
Posted Jun 19 2003 5:08PM
Steve Kerr had a ringside view on the careers of Michael Jordan and David Robinson
NEW YORK -- The answer was surprisingly succinct.
Steve Kerr, one of the more thoughtful and introspective players to put on an NBA uniform, was asked to identify the greatest similarity between Michael Jordan and David Robinson, having played alongside both and won championships with both during his career.
“Talent,” said Kerr, now in his 15th NBA season and second go-round with the San Antonio Spurs, with whom he won an NBA title in 1999 after winning three with the Chicago Bulls (1996-98). “They each had God-given physical ability to play the game. But I wouldn’t say there’s much else about them that is alike.”
Least of all, Kerr, who got to know both players pretty well over the years. Kerr joined the Bulls before the start of the 1993-94 season, as Jordan stepped away to pursue baseball. Without His Airness, Chicago lost in the second round of the 1994 playoffs to New York. Jordan returned in 1995 and after a slight blip against Orlando in the playoffs, the Bulls went on to win three more championships, with Kerr playing the role once held by John Paxson.
“If he hadn’t have come back, obviously I wouldn’t have won any championships,” Kerr said. “I never would have had the chance to play in the Finals. And in turn, I probably would have never ended up with the Spurs, because the reason they brought me in was because of what I provided for the Bulls, in terms of an outside shooting role.”
Following the breakup of the Bulls after the 1998 championship, Kerr was traded to the Spurs, where he played his designated-shooter role alongside Robinson and the new sheriff in San Antonio, Tim Duncan. Kerr and Robinson had an existing friendship dating back to 1986, when they were teammates on the World Championship team that won a gold medal in France. He wasn't surprised to learn that Robinson hadn't changed much, and was the opposite of Jordan.
“David has a lot of other interests. He’s not just a basketball player. He’s a musician, a guy who does a lot of community work. He’s very involved with his church. You’re talking about two totally different people really.”
Kerr, for his part, probably rests somewhere in between the two stars. He certainly doesn’t qualify as the most animated player to step on an NBA court. You won’t find a more accommodating presence in the locker room before and after games. To see him around the game is to witness a normal guy who probably never expected to be around this long. It’s why he cherishes all the moments he has left in the game.
“What a job to have,” said Kerr. “You wake up and you play basketball for two hours a day. It can’t get any better than that.”
Of course, you don’t last as long as he has, and own the highest three-point percentage in NBA history without possessing a certain amount of talent, grittiness and resolve. Everyone remembers his famous scrap with Jordan during the 1995-96 season that left him with a black eye, but more importantly, earned Jordan’s respect. The following season he hit the clutch jumper, off a pass from Jordan, to lead Chicago past Utah in the 1997 Finals.
“I’ve always loved the intensity involved with competition,” said Kerr. “I love the relationships with coaches and teammates, the common goal. I’ve always had so much fun being around the game."
Kerr has prepared himself for the reality that this may be his last season. His contract is up and the plan is to wait and see if any offers role in this summer. If a good opportunity came up, he’s considering playing another year. If nothing were to come about, he’d likely transition into a career in either coaching or broadcasting.
One thing’s for sure. He’ll never be through answering questions about two superstars he was lucky share the court with. And he’ll take with him a boat-load of wonderful memories.
“My lasting memory of David will probably go back to college when we played together at the World Championship in 1986,” said Kerr. “I remember walking the streets of Paris with him and just talking to him and getting to know him and discovering what an interesting guy he was, and how well he carries himself and how confident he was. He just didn’t fit the mold of a basketball star. That’s what stood out to me right away. My memory is really getting to know him in the beginning, and I was thrilled to end up playing with him again.
“With Michael it was every night. It’s so hard to pick one memory. It was the fact that he could put on a show every single night. It just never ceased. Every arena was sold out. Every fan was there to see him. And no matter how tired he was, he never disappointed.”