Texas shooting: Steve Kerr, NBA coach who pleaded for gun violence end, has surprising Middle East ties

Texas shooting: Steve Kerr, NBA coach who pleaded for gun violence end, has surprising Middle East ties
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who made an impassioned plea to US senators to pass gun legislation after a deadly school shooting in Texas, lost his father to an attack by Lebanese militants.
2 min read
26 May, 2022
Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr spent much of his childhood in the Middle East [Todd Kirkland/Getty]

NBA basketball coach Steve Kerr delivered a heart-wrenching speech on Tuesday night for US senators to pass gun legislation, hours after a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 children and two adults.

While his impassioned plea is fast becoming famous, his surprising and tragic ties to the Middle East are less well known.

The former NBA player and current Golden State Warriors head coach was born in Beirut, and has been personally affected by gun violence. His father, Malcolm Kerr, was shot dead by militants in Lebanon.

Malcolm Kerr was a Beirut-born American professor who specialised in the Middle East and became president of the American University of Beirut during the Lebanese civil war of the 1980s.

Israel had invaded the country at the time he became president. During his term as president, Kerr reportedly stood down an Israeli military vehicle that stormed onto campus.

As Lebanese militants threatened to eliminate Americans who dared remain in the country, Kerr, one of the highest-profile Americans in the country, was vulnerable. Despite this, he refused to keep a bodyguard the university had assigned to him.

Kerr was shot twice in the head by the Islamic Jihad Organisation on 18 January 1984.

Live Story

Steve Kerr, who was born in the Lebanese capital and spent much of his childhood in the Middle East, was an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Arizona when his father was killed. He has said that playing basketball helped him cope with the tragedy; he went on to become an eight-time NBA champion, five times as a player, and thrice as a coach.

Steve Kerr has spoken out about school shootings before - but his exasperation at the political inertia around gun violence in the US was clear to see on Tuesday.

"When are we gonna do something!" he exclaimed.

"I ask all of you senators who refuse to do anything about the violence and school shootings and supermarket shootings, I ask you - are you going to put your own desire for power ahead of the lives of our children, and our elderly, and our churchgoers?"