Ex-Cat's resolve, touch led to a handful of NBA champion rings

2011-08-12T00:00:00Z 2012-11-30T19:10:00Z Ex-Cat's resolve, touch led to a handful of NBA champion rings Arizona Daily Star
August 12, 2011 12:00 am

In celebration of Arizona's centennial, the Star will feature our picks for the 100 best athletes, moments and teams. Throughout the summer, we will showcase our list - with the first 90 in no particular order. Later this month, Greg Hansen will choose his top 10, with a column on each.

Steve Kerr


You could say there was an element of luck in Steve Kerr's basketball career.

The lightly recruited high school guard went to the 1988 Final Four with Sean Elliott and the Arizona Wildcats. Then, as a second-round NBA pick, Kerr won three NBA titles next to a guy named Michael Jordan and another two with Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs.

Kerr has long joked about his good fortune. He laughed at a 2005 roast when ex-UA assistant Kevin O'Neill said Kerr was the "most unjumping guy that ever played 15 years and (won) five titles in the history of the world."

And he often poked fun at his defensive deficiencies, displaying mock indignation after the Dallas Mavericks sent scorers right at him during the 2003 NBA Western Conference finals. "A lot of people don't know I was the Masterlock Defender of the Year in the sixth grade," Kerr said. "Apparently the Mavericks weren't aware of that."

But here's why it wasn't all about luck: The one game Kerr remembers above all the others was not the late three-pointer he hit to ensure the Bulls won the 1997 NBA title, nor any of his other 909 NBA games.

It was his last game in a UA uniform. Kerr still holds the school career three-point shooting mark (57.3 percent) but was painfully off during Arizona's NCAA semifinal loss to Oklahoma in 1988.

"Two for 13 from the floor, 2 for 12 in three-pointers, six points," he recited to USA Today earlier this year. "I don't need to be helped on that one."

It was that competitive drive - sometimes hidden by Kerr's beach-boy looks, self-deprecating humor and friendly demeanor - and his shooting skill that really drove Kerr's success. Kerr was not just a guy around Jordan and Duncan; he was a needed complement. He retired in 2003 as the NBA's all-time leader in three-point shooting percentage for a season (.524 in 1994-95) and career (.454), rarely a starter but often a guy who could be counted on for the clutch basket.

A column on Yahoo! Sports earlier this year even put Kerr at No. 14 on a list of retired basketball players not in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Since he finished playing, Kerr has worked as an NBA television commentator - a role he expanded last season by adding NCAA games - and he was the Phoenix Suns' GM from 2007 to 2010.

Hometown; current age

Los Angeles; 45

By the numbers


Players who have won five NBA titles

Bruce Pascoe

On StarNet: See the archive at: azstarnet.com/sportscentennial

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Pac-12 basketball standings

  Conference Overall
Arizona 0 0 0 0.000 12 0 0 1.000
Washington 0 0 0 0.000 10 0 0 1.000
California 0 0 0 0.000 10 1 0 0.909
Utah 0 0 0 0.000 8 2 0 0.800
Oregon 0 0 0 0.000 8 3 0 0.727
UCLA 0 0 0 0.000 8 4 0 0.667
Oregon State 0 0 0 0.000 7 3 0 0.700
USC 0 0 0 0.000 7 4 0 0.636
Arizona State 0 0 0 0.000 6 5 0 0.545
Stanford 0 0 0 0.000 6 3 0 0.667
Colorado 0 0 0 0.000 6 3 0 0.667
Washington State 0 0 0 0.000 5 6 0 0.455

AP Top 25

Pac-12 basketball schedule

Teams Date Time
Delaware State at
12/20 70-83
12/20 42-83
Lehigh at
Arizona State
12/20 84-81
Oklahoma at
12/20 67-69
USC at
Boston College
12/21 75-71
DePaul at
12/22 2:30 pm
Wisconsin at
12/22 7:00 pm
UC-Santa Barbara at
12/22 7:00 pm
Tulane at
12/22 9:00 pm
Detroit at
Arizona State
12/23 1:00 pm
Stanford at
12/23 5:00 pm
South Dakota State at
12/23 7:00 pm
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