Steve Kerr is well known today as one of the most successful NBA coaches of the last decade, but before he was coaching the Golden State Warriors to NBA titles he was winning them on the court in the 1990s and 2000s.
Kerr won five NBA championships as a player — three with the Chicago Bulls and two with the San Antonio Spurs. After retiring in 2003, Kerr frequently played pick-up games on the weekends until a knee scope forced him to quit playing at 43.
Reminiscing on his pickup days, Kerr said the times he had playing friendly games with his buddies were even more enjoyable than his NBA playing days.
“I actually enjoyed the pickup ball more than the NBA because I was finally the most talented player on the floor. I could actually cross somebody up and get to the rim. I’d be like, ‘What just happened?’Steve Kerr
Just like the casual pickup player, Kerr had the most fun being the best on the court.
Kerr had an incredibly successful playing career
Younger NBA fans know Kerr as the quiet genius behind Golden State‘s recent dynasty, but he had a long and prosperous NBA career as a player, too.
During the Bulls’s championship three-peat from 1996-98, Kerr was a crucial bench player alongside Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippin. Kerr was the team sharpshooter, and he finished his career with a 45.4 percentage from deep.
For reference, Steph Curry‘s career 3-point percentage is 43.5 percent.
In 1994-95, Kerr finished the season with an incredible 52.4 percent clip from three. That’s the second-highest for a single-season in NBA history among qualified players.
Most famously, Kerr hit the game-winning jumper in Game 6 of the 1997 NBA Finals to beat the Utah Jazz.
Kerr continued his NBA success as coach of the Golden State Warriors
Since winning five NBA titles as a player wasn’t enough, Kerr jumped into coaching in 2015-16 and rattled off another dynasty.
The Warriors went on to win three NBA Finals in four years, cementing Kerr as one of the winningest players or coaches in NBA history. He’s running out of fingers to hold all of his eight rings.
This season will be the first time in Kerr’s six-year head coaching career that he won’t be coaching in the NBA Finals. He’s the first coach to appear in five straight NBA Finals since Boston Celtics’ coach Red Auerbach in the 1960s.
Kerr says he misses being able to play pickup
Kerr has been out of the pickup game for about a decade. His aging knees brought his recreational playing career to a halt, so he’s only able to run and participate in yoga nowadays to stay in shape.
In his conversation with Chicago Bulls Insider, K.C. Johnson, Kerr said he misses the more competitive workouts he got from basketball and tennis.
“But you miss the feeling of the freedom and the flow and the energy. You start making some shots and you’re running and you get this incredible workout and at the end of the games, you’re just exhausted but in an incredibly satisfying way.”Steve Kerr
Kerr found coaching as a way to ignite the spark of his playing career. Whatever he chooses to do next, it’s a good bet he won’t be leaving the game of basketball for a long time.