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

Achievement

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

26

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
Team W L T PCT W L T PCT
Arizona 16 2 0 0.889 34 4 0 0.895
Utah 13 5 0 0.722 26 9 0 0.743
Oregon 12 5 0 0.706 25 10 0 0.714
UCLA 11 7 0 0.611 22 14 0 0.611
Arizona State 9 9 0 0.500 19 16 0 0.543
Stanford 9 9 0 0.500 24 13 0 0.649
Oregon State 8 10 0 0.444 16 14 0 0.533
Colorado 7 10 0 0.412 16 16 0 0.500
Washington State 7 11 0 0.389 13 18 0 0.419
California 6 11 0 0.353 17 15 0 0.531
Washington 5 13 0 0.278 16 15 0 0.516
USC 3 14 0 0.176 12 19 0 0.387
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