EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: It feels good to be in Cairo again: Steve Kerr – Omni sports – Sports


On August 31, BWB concluded its four-day camp which saw 64 boys and girls from 26 African countries participate in the 18th Basketball Without Borders (BWB) Africa Camp at the Hassan Mostafa Indoor Sports Complex in Cairo.

The NBA and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) have hosted 65 BWB camps in 30 countries since the program launched in 2001.

BWB has reached more than 3,800 participants from 134 countries and territories, with 105 former campers reaching the NBA or WNBA.

Among the famous names visiting the country and attending the camp was coach and former player Steve Kerr, who is the current head coach of the Golden State Warriors team.

Five head coaches, Chauncey Billups, Wes Unseld Jr., Chris Finch and Willie Green attended BWB Africa this year with Kerr.

Steve Kerr with Daniel Rubinstein, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires and Nicole Shampaine, Deputy Chief of Mission (Courtesy U.S. Embassy Cairo)

Kerr, who has a total of nine titles between coaching the Warriors and playing for the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs, was a student at Cairo American College (CAC) for three years while living in Egypt. This is his first visit in 35 years.

At the US Embassy in Cairo, Kerr was greeted by Daniel Rubinstein, the US Charge d’Affaires, who gave the sports legend a warm welcome as he revisited Egypt once again.

The event was also attended by Nicole Shampaine, Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States, and some members of the United States Ambassador Youth Council.

Before the interview, Kerr addressed the participants expressing his happiness to return to Cairo for the first time since 1985 accompanied by his family.

He also spoke about his recent visit to Liverpool and his feelings of respect for their Egyptian wing Mohamed Salah, particularly in regards to the former’s charity work and contributions to his hometown in Egypt.

Ahramonline: It is a pleasure to have you back here in Cairo, can you describe what your return means to you?

Steve Kerr: It was amazing to be back. I spent three years in Egypt attending CAC school in Maadi district in the 80s while my father was teaching at AUC.

1985 was the last time I was here.

When we left Cairo, my mother always told me that through the eight years she spent there, the most beautiful thing she remembers are the people; how hospitable, kind and empathetic they were.

And now that I’ve come back decades later, I see that (spirit) is still the same.

OA: You have always said that you tend to have a broader view and a global perspective on things, how has living in places like Egypt and Lebanon affected your view of the world, especially since you did it during those formative years?

Sask. : I think living abroad in different countries around the world at a young age, you get a good idea that people are actually the same.

We may choose different types of food, speak different languages, practice different religions, have different customs, but we are the same humans. You get that perspective when you are able, like me, to travel and live abroad.

In America, some people still don’t have a big enough perspective. For example, when I lived in Cairo, my friends would say, “Is it safe to be there? and I laughed and told them that it’s safer than sometimes in Los Angeles for example!

OA: Your camps have been open to athletes of all levels, genders and backgrounds. Tell us about the importance of inclusivity and diversity in basketball?

Sask. : That’s the beauty of sport, it tends to bring people together and basketball in particular has become a global sport.

When I played in the NBA 25 years ago, there were only a handful of players who weren’t American. Today in the NBA there are more than a hundred players.

The game has a global reach and I have also noticed its popularity growing in Egypt. I think the NBA has made a tremendous effort to help young players, boys and girls around the world, fall in love with the game, by teaching them and providing them with various opportunities.

OA: You were happy to tell us that you coached the BWB girls team that just concluded in Cairo. How can we make basketball a fairer and more profitable sport for female athletes?

Sask. : Sport is very important for young women, it is an integral part of their physical health as well as their confidence, their experiences and their ability to communicate and be part of a team.

It was a great opportunity for me to train this team of young girls from all over Africa: Egypt, Tanzania, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Mali.

It was nice to see them enjoying the game and showing their personality and gaining confidence. That’s the most important thing in camp, giving players the opportunity to grow.

OA: Every time you talk about Steph Curry, you say being a good person, an empathetic person, makes you a better player. Can you tell us more about this?

Sask. : Any team sport requires players who really connect with each other, and that’s – for me – the beauty of playing a team sport instead of golf or tennis for example.

When you are in a team, the stronger the bond between the players, the better your team is. And so when in – our case – our best player – Stef – has that kind of humility, humor and empathy that he has, it’s really powerful and it makes our team really stronger.

OA: What is the right balance you try to maintain when choosing players for the team?

Sask. : What we’re looking for are players who love the game. Because if you don’t love the game, it’s hard to be good and commit to winning, because it’s really a lot of work.

So we are looking for players who like the team and like to play, but also those who like to win and are very competitive. These two things can go hand in hand.

Steph Curry and Draymond Green for our team are great examples of extremely competitive players who just want to win, but are also so in love with what they do and show great joy on the pitch, and for me that’s the beauty of the game.

OA: Does the BWB in Africa have a different atmosphere?

Sask. : It has a nice atmosphere. Basketball is a relatively new game in Africa compared to how long it has been played in Europe for example, even compared to Australia.

In Africa, I believe he gained popularity in 1992 after the Barcelona Olympics and Dream Team fame, when the NBA sent all the great players, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, David Robinson and the whole world fell in love with the game.

The NBA tried to develop the game through BWB, African Basketball League and various trainings and camps to reach young African players.

OA: How have you seen the rise of basketball in Africa and Egypt, since your time in the NBA in the 90s until today?

Sask. : The facilities have changed a lot, I remember that in my school in Cairo, we played with all the clubs in Cairo; Maadi, Gezira, Zamalek, Ahly and I remember there were no closed arenas, all were outdoor courts, that all changed.

I have met many Egyptian national basketball team players and coaches and seen how all aspects have improved and gone so far since I have been here.

OA: What are your dreams for the Warriors and your advice for budding young basketball players?

Sask. : For the Warriors, we start the new season on September 24 – first practice, and our goal is of course to win another championship.

As for young players, I would say you have to train when you have to, learn to be a good teammate and understand that it’s not always an easy road, but that’s sport and its beauty.

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