OAKLAND -- Two hours before tipoff of the most anticipated game of the season, Warriors coach Steve Kerr entered the room for his pregame news conference, seated himself and immediately began a monologue unrelated to basketball.
Kerr took a couple minutes Monday afternoon, prior to Cavaliers vs. Warriors at Oracle Arena, not only to acknowledge Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but also to share a story that provided a glimpse into his family.
“First, I want to wish everybody a happy MLK Day,” Kerr began. “I think about this story every year. My son was five years old. He was in kindergarten and he came home from school a couple days before MLK Day and he had this really sad look on his face. And I said, ‘What’s the matter, buddy?’ He said, 'Well, Monday is Martin Luther King’s birthday, and I didn’t get an invitation.'
“So I hope if there was a party today for any of you, you did get invited.
Warriors-Cavs, featuring the teams that met in each of the past two NBA Finals, is one of nine NBA games -- five of which are nationally televised -- scheduled on MLK Day. The NBA makes a concerted effort to use the national holiday as an opportunity to educate while also entertaining.
“We celebrate the game, we celebrate Dr. King’s legacy and his impact and, I have to say, I’m really, really proud to be part of the NBA and proud of (commissioner) Adam Silver’s leadership,” Kerr said. “I’m proud that the league is so progressive in terms of really promoting tolerance and equality -- and they back it up. It is truly from the heart.
“I’m proud of our players for the work they do. And I just want to say thank you for all the people out there who are working toward all those ideals, not only in the league but everywhere -- teachers, mentors, philanthropists, a lot of people out there doing wonderful stuff.”
Asked about significance of MLK Day, as it relates to the America’s contentious political landscape four days before Donald Trump, the most bombastic president-elect in modern times, is inaugurated, Kerr didn’t flinch.
“There’s definitely a divide right now,” he said. “Today is full of significance in terms of reminding everybody to be compassionate, to be empathetic. I was looking at some of Martin Luther King’s quotes this morning. And one of them that I hadn’t seen before that was really simple and to the point was: ‘We may have all come over here on different ships, but we’re now in the same boat.’
“I thought that was really well said. It’s a reminder that we are all products of our environment. Some of us are much more fortunate than others. I know from my own life that there’s no way I’d be sitting here without the family support that I had, the upbringing that I had. There are so many people are left behind.
“And so it’s critical for people to have compassion and have empathy. And I would hope in these times, with so much anger and divide, that we’ll be reminded of that today.”