Lebanon Rumors

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Before his death, Malcolm Kerr had been a rising star in the world of Middle Eastern history. He and Ann had met in Beirut, in 1954, and they had four children together—Steve was the third. After Malcolm was killed, Ann told me, everyone in the family mourned the loss in a different way. “Steve knew his father loved basketball,” she said. Basketball was an important constant during Steve’s early years, as he grew up in Beirut, Cairo, California, and points in between. He and Malcolm played together often. “Malcolm was quite competitive by nature,” Ann said. “Steve gets it from his father.” As a freshman in high school, Steve attended Cairo American College, an outpost of liberal American education where expat kids mingled in a rarefied space of leafy tranquility within the sprawling metropolis. Steve played basketball there but yearned to return to California, to play at a higher level. His parents obliged him. “He was so eager to play that we decided we’ve got to let him go back home,” Ann told me. “He’s always been single-minded about basketball.”
More than three decades later, Ann reflected on her son’s career and success, and the international popularity of N.B.A. basketball. “People wake up in the middle of the night in Beirut to tune into his games,” she said. “They are proud because he was born there.” In the N.B.A. Finals, Kerr’s Warriors are currently up three games to two over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Before the series began, Ann and her grandchildren made plans to attend Game 5 together, and she’d teased her son, urging him to let his team lose at least one game so that she could go to Oakland to see him. The Cavaliers wound up winning the third game of the series, and on Monday, a few hours before Game 5, Ann e-mailed me, “Hello from Oakland, where we hope the Warriors will win tonight.”