Warriors: How “The Last Dance” made Steve Kerr a winner

Warriors (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
Warriors (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images) /

We take a look at how “The Last Dance” docuseries made Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr out to be a hero of the Chicago Bulls’ second three-peat and one of the great stories in basketball.

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr and Michael Jordan are forever linked.

Sure, they’ve gone their separate ways since the band broke up after the Chicago Bulls defeated the Utah Jazz for the second time in a row in 1998 for the franchise’s second three-peat. Kerr now coaches the Warriors, and Jordan part-owns the Charlotte Hornets.

But anyone who watched the ESPN production was able to comprehend Kerr’s importance to the fabric of those championship teams.

The former Bulls guard’s path to coming out a winner in this story, however, is quite bloody.

Their eventual rapport started out on rather violent terms, with Kerr detailing an altercation he had with Jordan prior to the 1995-96 season.

Calling out the team’s unquestioned leader and best player in practice was boldly ambitious, and it earned Kerr a black eye from Jordan. It also earned the latter’s respect, something that would come up clutch during the 1997 NBA Finals.

It’s truly incredible that Kerr could muster up the confidence to voice his opinion about No. 23 because the reality of the situation was that Jordan could be quite tyrannical, almost abusive towards his teammates.

The docuseries made it clear: If you didn’t have Jordan’s drive and toughness, he was going to come after you.

The incident, which took place during training camp in 1995, was not long after Jordan’s return to the NBA and after the Bulls had been eliminated in the second round of the previous season’s playoffs to the Orlando Magic.

One can only imagine the motivation Jordan was feeling to seek vengeance after his comeback tour was cut uncharacteristically short.

Kerr and Jordan eventually developed a mutual respect on the court. This would come with time, and reached its pinnacle after Kerr hit the game-winning shot against Utah in game six of the 1997 NBA Finals, fittingly off a pass from Jordan.

The shot would garner Kerr comparisons to first three-peat hero, John Paxson, the Bulls’ guard who similarly hit the clutch shot in a game six during the 1993 NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns.

However, it would take until episode nine of “The Last Dance” to fully realize the significance of Steve Kerr’s NBA journey. That episode recalled the death of his father, Dr. Malcolm Kerr, a professor of Middle East politics in Beirut, in January 1984.

This unspeakable tragedy would permanently affect Steve’s life from that moment on. Merely an 18-year-old kid at the time of his father’s death, the news he had obtained would shape the way he perceived the world and the actions of others from that point forward.

Perhaps that shift in perspective was one of the reasons Kerr went after Jordan in that 1995 practice when he called out Jordan’s harsh behavior.

The pain and agony of his father’s death would never go away, but Kerr willed his way to a college scholarship at Arizona, followed by a fruitful NBA playing career as a rotational player. He thrived in the role, finishing with five titles by the time he retired in 2003.

On that level, Kerr and Michael Jordan could understand each other. Though they never discussed their fathers’ deaths, that unspoken bond had brought them together, even if not explicitly so.

For both players, basketball was a way to occupy the mind from their shocking realities. They didn’t know any other way.

Kerr’s penchant for storytelling was evident throughout the docu-series, and the glimpse viewers got of both his basketball and personal life made for a great underdog story that provided a refreshing contrast between him and the series’ obvious alpha personality and protagonist.

He definitely wasn’t MJ. He wasn’t even Scottie Pippen or Dennis Rodman. But he didn’t need to be.

“The Last Dance” portrayed Steve Kerr in the best possible way — a man who went through unbelievable personal tragedy to mold an NBA playing career with a variety of experiences that made his story one of the most appealing out of everyone featured in the series.

Next. Warriors: 5 low-cost options for upcoming free agency. dark

After following his journey, Is it any wonder why his Golden State Warriors’ teams have responded so well to his coaching?