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June 03, 2003

Role Call
By Dan Patrick

The words "humble" and "selfless" are not commonly used to describe professional athletes these days, but they're often used to describe San Antonio Spurs guard Steve Kerr. "Community" and "camaraderie" are not terms generally used to describe pro sports teams, but those are the words chosen by Kerr to describe his team on the radio show last week.

Steve Kerr
The Admiral should just endorse his playoff check to Kerr.

After playing a mere 13 minutes throughout the playoffs, Kerr became the unlikely hero in the Spurs' dramatic fourth-quarter comeback victory over the Dallas Mavericks that prevented a Game 7 in the Western Conference finals. Coming off the bench due to an ailing Tony Parker and an ineffective Speedy Claxton, Kerr sank four consecutive, nothing-but-net 3-pointers to rally the Spurs from a 13-point deficit to a 90-78 win.

It's nice to know that nice guys sometimes finish first. In fact, championships seem to follow Kerr. He hit the game-winning shot in Chicago's 1997 victory over the Utah Jazz for his first championship, which was followed by two more titles with the Bulls. His fourth straight championship came the following year, in 1999, with the Spurs.

What's refreshing about Kerr is that his humility is not only genuine, it's infectious.

Kerr is the ultimate role player who specializes in coming through in the clutch. He's the NBA's version of the designated hitter. His work ethic remains consistent regardless of how many minutes he's on the floor. And, according to Spurs assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo, the average guy doesn't work as hard as Kerr. His Game 6 performance vs. the Mavs spoke volumes to the younger players in terms of emphasizing the importance of preparation and attention to details and fundamentals.

Kerr's head is always in the game. He knows that the first couple of shots taken off the bench are the most important, and he's determined to be ready. Against the Mavs, Kerr capitalized on triple-teams on Tim Duncan and took advantage of the wide-open shots -- which will certainly play to the Spurs' favor in the NBA Finals against the New Jersey Nets. The Nets know they have more than just Duncan to deal with.

That's not good news for New Jersey, which is still the clear underdog despite the perception that the Nets will fare better against the Spurs than they would have against the Lakers. But there are still four games to win, and the fact remains that Kerr may play few, if any, minutes in the finals. While another player with his resumé might be disgruntled, Kerr's attitude is simply, "One game away from the finals, who am I to complain about not playing?"

With limited playing time, when Kerr's next shot will come is uncertain. But chances are that when it does, it will be from 3-point range, with the game hanging in the balance.

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