Steve Kerr not proud of infamous practice scuffle with Michael Jordan

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr had to laugh when asked what it’s been like to relive his tenure with the Chicago Bulls as “The Last Dance” continues to dominate the national conversation.

“It’s definitely weird,” Kerr told ESPN. “And I know it’s about to get weirder.”

That’s because Kerr, who won three championships as a guard for the Bulls back from 1996-98, knows what’s coming up in the final four episodes, especially the next one on Sunday night that goes in depth on his infamous practice scuffle with Michael Jordan that left Kerr with a black eye.

“It’s not something I’m proud of,” Kerr said of the incident. “It is something that happens from time to time on most teams during the season. Guys get into it during practice. It’s just part of high-level competition. But it’s very, very strange to know everybody’s hearing this story and talking about it and then I’m going to be on camera talking about it. Michael is. And people are going to be examining this whole thing.

“It’s like there’s a reason camera crews generally aren’t given that type of access. Now, I don’t think there was any footage of that fight, because that didn’t happen in ’98, but just unearthing it all and talking about it is not a lot of fun.”

Kerr, who has been social distancing with his family in the San Diego area since the NBA season was suspended on March 11 due to the coronavirus pandemic, says he and Jordan have not spoken since the documentary started airing last month, and have never spoken about the incident since it occurred over two decades ago.

“He called me later that day and apologized,” Kerr said. “I think it was almost in a strange way, it was almost a necessary step in our relationship, in a weird way. And from then on, I think he understood me a lot better and vice versa. And we got along much better and competed together and I think he trusted me more. So it was actually sort of, in the end, it was all good. But we’ve never talked about it since. To be honest, I don’t ever think about it, but I get asked about it because it’s a unique [situation].”

Kerr knows the questions will continue as the documentary comes to a conclusion over the next couple of weeks. He understands the interest surrounding that final Jordan-led Bulls team, but he admits that some of the old storylines, like the scuffle with Jordan, have not been as fun to remember.

“We’re getting into the second three-peat,” Kerr said of the documentary. “And some of the more personal aspects and stories. And that part is, I have mixed emotions about it. On the one hand I’m really happy that this stuff is archived. I’m happy my kids get to see footage from when they were just toddlers or not even born yet. And for them to see what my life was like back then is really cool.

“On the other hand, there’s a reason that this kind of project is not done more often. It’s very private. It’s a behind-the-scenes look and most coaches will stick to that policy of the locker room being sacred and that was such a unique season and a unique time that that decision was made to allow for that. It’s different. It’s really different.”

ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan outlined some of the specific frustrations Kerr’s former teammate, Scottie Pippen, has in regard to how he is being portrayed at times in the documentary. With Pippen a beloved former teammate, both Kerr and Dennis Rodman have come to Pippen’s defense after Jordan called him “selfish” earlier in the documentary for waiting to have surgery because he was upset about not having his contract renegotiated.

“I think everybody’s fascinated by it but when you’re part of a team sometimes you want some of that stuff to stay private,” Kerr said. “But again, that was kind of the bargain that was struck. We would allow this camera group behind the scenes and we’d have that season documented and it was ‘the last dance’ and now here we are 22 years later and it’s opening up a time capsule or something.”

While Kerr hasn’t spoken to Jordan, he has been in touch with several teammates as the documentary unfolds. He says his relationship with Jordan has remained friendly through the years, even as Jordan has shied away from the spotlight and not maintained close relationships with many former teammates.

“I think this documentary is giving you a pretty good glimpse inside his life and how different his life was as a player and that probably affected his life ever since,” Kerr said. “He’s very, very private … we might run into each other once a year or so at maybe a golf tournament or All-Star Weekend or maybe in Charlotte when we play and he’s always great and it’s fun to see each other and we relive a few old times and then just move on.

“But he’s always been very private and it’s easy to see why if you’re watching this documentary. His life was just total chaos. So I think he relishes his privacy now.”

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