Back when I was working at Sports Illustrated, Jon Wertheim and I used to have these regular talks about particular athletes, and whether they were “One of us” or not. That was Jon’s term—”One of us”—and he didn’t mean “poorly dressed” or “carries a pen everywhere” or “loves the sound of typing.”
Nope, “One of us” meant the guy got it. He understood the media; grasped what we were trying to do; respected the task at hand and understood that an article in Sports Illustrated (or any publication) involved reporting, digging, questions, requests to speak with relatives, etc.
Regrettable, the “One of us” category was quite thin. In the course of my career, I probably engaged, oh, 30 athletes who qualified. Off the top of my head, Sean Casey, Shawn Green, Gary Sheffield, Jim Edmonds, Sal Fasano, Kevin Mitchell, Theo Ratliff, um … eh. I’m sure there were more. But not many more.
Anyhow, as I watched the above clip from Steve Kerr’s Post Game 4 press conference, I was reminded once again of Jon’s words. Kerr is one of us—not merely because he worked in the media, but because he seems to understand that the best way to approach these things is with sincerity, decency, humanity and loads upon loads of self-deprecation. Here he is, coaching in the NBA Finals, but he appears to maintain a sense of place; almost an understanding that it’s all sort of a joke, and come day’s end we’re talking about a ball and a basket and really tall men. Yeah, it’s important. But it’s not ISIS. Kerr, who has seen his fair share of tragedy, grasps it well.
I don’t think I’ve ever met Kerr. But he strikes me as the sort of guy who’d be fun to lunch with. Which, for me, is far more important than rings.
PS: One more thing: I’m tired of people loving Greg Popovich for being a cranky asshole. Especially media members, who seem to revel in being treated like mud. That’s great—you’re gruff and rude. We get it. But I’ll take Kerr’s perspective any day of the week.