Steve Kerr: A Life
by Scott Howard-Cooper
Published by HarperCollins Publishers on June 15, 2021
NBA // Non-Fiction // Bulls & Warriors
From the “diary” of sportswriter Scott Howard-Cooper:
On August 10, 2019…he wrote:
“Beginning work on a biography of Warriors coach Steve Kerr, to be published by William Morrow in Fall 2020. Kerr’s journey through triumph and tragedy is unmatched anywhere — not just sports — with layers of growing up around the world, activism, overcoming adversity, constantly having to prove himself and, of course, basketball. I look forward to sharing new details of his fascinating path to becoming one of the biggest names in the NBA and giving fresh context to familiar events.”
Then on March 19, 2020 he revealed more about his Steve Kerr biography:
“What a labor of love. The twists and turns of the last year leave me more appreciative than when the project began in 2019.”
Scott Howard-Cooper’s Steve Kerr: A Life is out now. A freshtastic NBA biography.
From the back of the book: “Few individuals have had a career as storied, and improbable, as Steve Kerr. He has won eight NBA titles—five as a player and three as a coach—for three different franchises. He played alongside the best players of a generation, from Michael Jordan to Shaquille O’Neal to Tim Duncan, and learned the craft of basketball under four legendary coaches. He was an integral part of two famed NBA dynasties. Perhaps no other figure in basketball history has had a hand in such greatness.”
Here are 2 of my favourite passages from this NBA bio…and they have nothing to do with the NBA!
On page 12: “When the Kerrs moved in 1976 to Egypt, where Malcolm would be a distinguished visiting professor at American University in Cairo, Ann warned the kids that they were not going to like the country much. “The food is terrible, the weather is hot and sticky for months on end, everything is always dusty, and the TV is in Arabic,” she told them. But, she added, “we’ll learn a lot and it will be a great adventure.”
This passage made me laugh because I have visited Egypt a number of times in the late 80s into the 90s and Ann Kerr is spot on. The TV was (and still is) terrible. Thank God for Netflix.
In fact I recorded the introduction and edited the attached episode in Cairo…in Egypt not far from where Steve Kerr played basketball successfully taking on hapless Egyptian adults in a sort of cultural adaptation of White Men Can’t Jump.
At the time the Kerrs set up shop in the Cairo suburb of Maadi; I was currently in Heliopolis, another Cairo suburb about 20…25 KM from where the Kerrs lived. Their special area has a lot of bilingual bookshops and a cultural life particularly geared towards Westerners.
Steve Kerr adds on page 17: “People don’t understand what Cairo is like,” he said years later. “They think of Egypt and they think of pyramids and camels. Actually, for an American teenager Cairo is a great place. There are Americans all over and there aren’t very many rules you have to follow. I had a great time over there.”
He’s correct; I know what he is talking about…I can understand why he enjoyed Cairo so much. It’s hard to properly convey because common experience naturally creates a common shorthand. (Though not quite what Kerr is talking about…down below I’ve shared a bonus story from my recent time in Egypt.)
I say all this to underscore what Scott said in our My Summer Lair conversation; this isn’t just an NBA biography.
If you want stories about Jordan and the Bulls or Curry and the Warriors they’re in there. And like everyone else I dig those stories even though I can’t relate to them. I wasn’t on the Bulls in the 90s playing with Jordan in the midst of 2 dominant 3-Peats. So as a writer/journalist tell me what that was like but in between those public moments that we all witnessed are the private concerns that instantly offer connection.
There are many aspects of Kerr’s strange and improbable life I can relate to and that doesn’t often happen with an NBA biography. Or more importantly with an NBA life.
Like this attached My Summer Lair conversation starts with the assassination of Malcom Kerr a political studies professor and president of the American University of Beirut who was active in the Middle East.
“I’ve lived a privileged life and met, I think, the past five previous presidents prior to President Trump,” Steve Kerr said. “The first one was in 1984, and Ronald Reagan was president. He invited my mom and me, six months after my dad [Malcolm] was killed in a terrorist attack.” He adds: “They invited us into the Oval Office, spent about half an hour with us thanking us for my dad’s service,” Kerr said. “[My dad] was in education. Thanking us for my dad’s commitment to American values in the Middle East. Trying to promote peace in the Middle East.”
On the surface you’re like…how does any of that connect back to the Warriors or to the NBA and playing with Jordan?!
That’s what makes this book-profile fascinating.
There’s an old joke and it’s not particularly funny: “Last night I went to a boxing match and a hockey game broke out.” It’s an ancient commentary on the violent fighting nature of NHL hockey. Well in Steve Kerr: A Life that lousy one-linear could be revised as: “I started reading the Warriors’ coach’s biography and a basketball game broke out.” The basketball is unexpected in how and when it comes. So is the success he’s enjoyed.
When you look back on your life…are there particular moments that naturally prompt gratitude? Are there circumstances that at first seemed like darkness was setting up camp only over time they became significant moments of light?
If you read Scott Howard-Cooper’s Steve Kerr: A Life the answer is yes to both questions. Yet there is a relentless optimism and an undaunted joy that rings out on almost every page of this special NBA biography.
This is an inspiring My Summer Lair episode that even acknowledges the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. My hope is that you’ll make gratitude a habit in your life…not because it is easy but because it is hard (according to JFK). Kinda like resurrecting dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.
For all these strange and profound experiences Steve Kerr is one of the reasons why the Warriors are a special team. I dunno why but I thought Jordan and the Bulls would be an endless reign, their domination was as consistent as the Sun and the Moon. I was young and I was wrong in that order.
I dunno how long we’ll have Curry and Klay and Kerr on the Warriors but as long as we do…savor these moments and treasure these highlights.
Something this good is rare and easily prompts gratitude.
Sammy Younan is the affable host of My Summer Lair: think NPR’s Fresh Air meets Kevin Smith: interviews & impressions on Pop Culture.
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