In her book, "One Family's Response To Terrorism: A Daughter's Memoir," Susan wrote that she was consumed for years by an image of the fatal bullet killing her father, of it "ruining his fantastic brain" before striking every member of the family, including the one living out his student-athlete dream in the U.S. "It struck my brother Steve with such force," she wrote, "as to push him wildly onto the streets of Tucson, Arizona, where he could not stop running in the aftermath of his middle-of-the-night phone call."
From her home in Cambridgeshire, England, where she serves as a county councillor for the Liberal Democrat party, Susan Kerr van de Ven recalled her reaction as mirroring Steve's. "I was running up and down the road in Taiwan," she said. "But Steve was the one who was alone, and he was still just a boy, really. We just couldn't imagine him getting that news in the middle of the night alone in his room."
Rather than fly Steve into Beirut for the on-campus memorial, the Kerrs decided he should remain in Tucson to play his upcoming game against Arizona State, and to meet the family for services scheduled to be held in the coming days at Princeton, where Malcolm had earned his undergraduate degree, and at UCLA, where Malcolm taught for 20 years.
Two nights after his father's death, Steve wept during a pregame moment of silence, came off the bench to hit his first jumper -- a 25-footer -- and made 5 of 7 field goal attempts to give Olson his first Pac-10 victory.
Steve used the basketball court as his sanctuary, his place to hide from the tragedy of losing the man who shot baskets with him in their Pacific Palisades driveway. The man who would read The New Yorker in the Dodger Stadium bleachers while his young sons were trying to run down batting practice home runs. The man who would never see him play a college game in person.
But in 1988, as Kerr was a fifth-year senior recovering from a torn ACL, the court was a sanctuary no more. During warm-ups before a game at Arizona State, some 10 to 15 fans hit him with a series of subhuman chants that included "P-L-O" and "Where's your dad?"
Kerr dropped the ball and all but collapsed onto the bench, his eyes filling up with tears. He was a beaten man, at least until he wasn't.
Kerr recovered to score 20 of his 22 points in the first half, to make all six of his 3-point attempts in the blowout victory and to send a message to those who tried to unnerve him with their evil words.
"There's no question they made me play my best," Kerr said that night.
"That was Steve," recalled his younger brother, Andrew, now a general contractor in the Washington, D.C., area. "He wasn't going to charge into the stands to go after those idiots. He was just going to ruin their night by winning the game."
Steve Kerr, a second-round pick in that '88 NBA draft, was already playing for his fourth team by the time Michael Jordan showed up for the Chicago Bulls' training camp in the fall of 1995. Jordan's first comeback out of retirement had ended in playoff failure the previous spring, and he was hell-bent on re-establishing himself (and supplanting Scottie Pippen) as the team's alpha male, as the same dominator who had won three titles before quitting to play minor league baseball.