This Friday, June 5th, history will be made in the NBA as two rookie head coaches face off against each other in the NBA Finals. This is the first time that two rookie head coaches have played each other in the Finals since the NBA’s inaugural season in 1947. Former 5 time NBA champion as a player, TNT analyst and Phoenix Suns’ general manager Steve Kerr will be coaching the Golden State Warriors while former Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt will be coaching the Cleveland Cavaliers in this historic matchup.
This series is one of the more ironic coaching matchups because Blatt was originally supposed to be on the Warrior’s bench, assisting Kerr. The two had a verbal commitment in which Blatt would be an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors. After the verbal agreement was reached, the Cavaliers reached out to Blatt for an interview in hopes of making him the head coach in Cleveland. The classy guy that Blatt is, asked Kerr for permission to interview with the Cavs instead of going behind his and the Warrior’s back. Kerr agreed to let Blatt interview for the position even though an agreement was already in place.
What many people do not know about the Kerr family is that they have many ties, and work extremely hard to create more ties and build better bridges with America and the Middle East. This started off with his parents who lived in Lebanon for a good portion of their lives. Steve’s father Malcolm was an educator, later to become president of American University of Beirut in Lebanon. This is where he met his wife Ann, and birthed 3 of their children, including Steve.
Unfortunately, on the date of January 18th, 1984 Malcolm Kerr was assassinated by Islamic terrorists outside of his American University office, simply for being American. This occurred while Steve was just a boy, playing basketball for the University of Arizona. Steve turned to the game of basketball to keep his mind off of his father’s death, which normally worked, until a game against rival, Arizona State in 1988.
During warm-ups of that game, a group of Arizona State students started chanting at Kerr. They were chanting vile things like, “Where’s your dad?” and “Your dad is history”, which lead to Kerr collapsing and weeping on the bench. Once he gained his composure, Kerr hit six 3-pointers in the first half of the game, leading Arizona to a blowout victory against Arizona State. The Arizona State athletic director soon wrote a letter apologizing to Kerr for that group of students embarrassing actions. After Malcolm Kerr’s death, the Kerr family only worked harder to build peaceful bridges with America and the Middle East. It’s what Malcolm would’ve wanted.
So what does this story have to do with the current NBA match up since it happened almost 20 years ago? Some may say that because Kerr kept such close ties to the Middle East, he paid attention very closely to the basketball being played there. This may have lead to Kerr discovering David Blatt and his coaching style.
With Blatt’s success in his first year as head coach, it could lead to more international coaches making the jump to the NBA, which would only strengthen ties with America and other countries.
We don’t know what the future holds for our world or what the Kerr’s ties to the Middle East could mean for peace. But what we do know is that the NBA’s popularity shot up in Israel when David Blatt made the jump to coach the Cavaliers. Will this open doors for other international coaches? The amount of international players in the NBA is at an all time high currently. Will we see the same kind of thing happen with coaches? If it does happen, will it change people’s views of America? Nobody knows, but we can only hope that public sports figures can make a difference in the world by making it on the grand stage and continuing to work on building bridges through all means available.