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49 mins

The Problem Podcast

Jon Talks With Basketball's Steve Kerr

Steve Kerr thinks he’s here to talk with Jon about his career, speaking out on social issues, and the racial and political dynamics of the NBA. And he does get to talk about those things, but not before enduring Jon’s pleas for him to coach the Knicks. Staff writers Jay and Henrik offer some color commentary as well.

The Problem with Jon Stewart Podcast
Episode 9 Transcript

Jay Jurden: Have you been working on your Steve Kerr impression?

[LAUGHS]

Jon Stewart: I think — no, Henrik has!

[JAY LAUGHS]

Jay Jurden: Okay.

Henrik Blix: I did use to watch a Steve Kerr shooting instructional video on YouTube to work on my jump shot.

Jay: Oh my god! What’s the one thing that you remember from that video?

Henrik: So there’s guys who their motion starts like at the top of their jump, and there’s guys who like their whole body gets into it. And he’s a whole body guy.

Jon: Whole body is old school if you watch the old 40’s and 50’s. They never shot — they shot from their knees like they would bring it up and roll it. And then it was years later where guys would be like, “You know, I’m strong enough to hold the ball up by my head.”

[LAUGHS]

Jay: Because we got rid of polio now.

Henrik: Yeah, in the 60’s, once we got calcium in our diets players started shooting —

[LAUGHS]

Jay: Of course when we started putting fluoride in.

Jon: And that’s why the vaccine should be mandatory.

[LAUGHS]

[INTRO MUSIC]

Jon Stewart: Hey, everybody. Welcome to the podcast. So we’re here, we got Jay Jurden, Henrik Blix. They are writers on the program. They are enormous basketball fans. Steve Kerr is the guest. He is the Chicago Bulls sharpshooter. Many championships during the Michael Jordan era and the reign. He is the coach of the Golden State Warriors. Many more championships. I assume he’s going to be a GM and he’s going to win many, many more championships in that way. And his sole purpose is to keep the Knicks from ever smiling, ever touching joy. But what a lovely person.

[JAY LAUGHS]

Jay: Oh my goodness.

Jon: You don’t expect that. You know what it looked like for me. So Steve Kerr to me has Phil Jackson’s resume, right? He won some championships as a player. Wasn’t the main guy like Phil Jackson, won some championships as a coach. You’re not the player, but you’re the architect of some of that thing. What he lacks is Jackson’s douchiness in any way, like none of it.

[LAUGHS]

Jay: Oh we got here fast.

Jon: He doesn’t — do you understand what I’m saying?

Jay: The city of Chicago is going to attack Jon.

Jon: They understand. They understand.

Henrik: Yeah, I think. I think Jon’s drawn a line in the sand with the city of Chicago.

[JAY LAUGHS]

Jon: By the way, he wasn’t ever douchey when he was with the Knicks. That’s a Chicago Bulls thing. They douchied him up.

[JAY LAUGHS]

Jon: Phil Jackson was a mensch. When he was the sixth man on the Knicks, when they went to the championships, you couldn’t find a nicer, more humble individual. And then Chicago got in his head, f***ed him all up.

[JAY LAUGHS]

Henrik: And The Sixth Man is always the nicest guy on the team.

Jay: That’s what it stands for. If you’re a sixth man, that means, “you, you, you, you, you”.

Henrik: “You guys have fun.”

[LAUGHS]

Jon: In like in a Miss America thing. Is that like a Miss Congeniality?

Henrik: I think so. I think the sixth man is a Miss Congeniality.

[JAY LAUGHS]

Jon: Okay, makes sense.

Jay: No, it’s definitely not. Henrik, you play basketball. Don’t lie to these people.

Henrik: That’s true. I play basketball and it’s all six men. It’s me and a bunch of comedy writers. On Sunday mornings we play. And you have never seen a slower, more congenial game of basketball in your life.

[LAUGHS]

Jon: I’m gonna tell you so years ago, when I I wrote for Garry Shandling on “Larry Sanders” and he would always have a basketball game at his house on a Sunday, he would invite all the comics out there. And when I tell you the quality of play, so here’s how the games generally went. Al Franken. Al Franken was Isiah Thomas. He was –

[LAUGHS]

Jay: No! It was, it was senators crossing you up. You have a problem.

Jon: Yes, crossing you up. And it was always the same game. It was asthmatic out of breath until Kevin Nealon would show up and he was Wilt Chamberlain.

Henrik: Yeah, he’s big in the post.

Jon: So he would just fill the paint. But those games, like, were the funnest —

Henrik: This is the best.

Jon: — Least athletically talented.

Jay: I love that a comedian’s league, if you’re 6’4, you’re a sinner.

Henrik: Last week we had a moment where me and another, you know, that thing in basketball where like the ball might have gone off either guy and they’re both like, it went off the other guy. Except what we did is we’re like, “I think I think it went off me. I think you should —” and he’s like, “No, no, no, no, no. I’m pretty sure it went off for me. I think you should take it.”

[JAY LAUGHS]

Jay: Can I just say that’s what I want white guilt to look like? “No, no. Nothing. No, no, no, no.”

[HENRIK LAUGHS]

Jon: Oh, did I keep it from housing now? But you’re still young and hale, so you still play, but you’re not a particularly tall individual?

Henrik: No, no, no, no. In a comedy writers league, we need to make sure that this is all to scale in a comedy writers.

[JAY LAUGHS]

Jon: So are you a two? Are you a three? What are you? Do you stretch the board?

Henrik: The ball runs through me, the ball goes through me and it goes right out of bounds.

[LAUGHS]

Jon: By the way, in a comedian’s league, generally it’s the snacks that run through you. Generally, there are digestive issues, in a comedians league.

[LAUGHS]

Jay: It was maybe the first week that we were in the office, Henrik like was bragging about having hops and I was like —.

Henrik: I wasn’t, Rob was bragging for me.

Jay: – And then I was like—

Jon: Rob was saying you had hops?

Henrik: Rob was saying I had hops.

Jay: – He was saying Henrik has some bounce. and I was like, “Nah.” And then Henrik on his phone because he was so proud, had a video of him getting rim.

[LAUGHS]

Jon: Okay. I don’t know, I don’t, you know, I don’t know.

Henrik: As the master of the double entendre—

Jon: Do you know, do you want to take that back?

Jay: As the only queer person here, I stand by what I said. It was a beautiful video of Henrik getting rimmed.

[JON LAUGHS]

Jon: All right.

Henrik: I said fellas, first week here. Here’s me getting some rim. You know, what’s amazing is my parents are going to be like, “So Henrik was on the podcast. We’re going to – We’re going to listen to it. We’re going to have everyone over. We’re going to make a little food. We’re going to listen to the podcast and it’s going to be 20 minutes of like —”

[LAUGHS]

Jon: Can I tell you this? And I don’t, and I say this again, this is not to dox you, but I imagine your parents being so pleasant as to be too humble figures in a curio cabinet. And when you visit them, they actually live in the cabinet and you just open it and you take them both out and they’re —

Henrik: They’re going to pop out of the cuckoo clock and listen to this.

[JAY LAUGHS]

Jay: You know Henrik was delivered by the stork. That’s how pure they are. Jon.

[HENRIK LAUGHS]

Jay: They sent the office, this isn’t a joke, they sent the office popcorn and he was like, “Just because they like to do stuff like that.”.

Henrik: No, Jon, send us popcorn. But I was worried that it was my parents until I found out.

Jay: Oh, okay, yeah, okay.

Henrik: The popcorn came and I was like “My parents sent us popcorn.” Someone was like, “Jon sent everybody popcorn.” Phew!

[LAUGHS]

Jon: Mike Royce used to have a great joke about when he was in school and he’d be sitting in school and all of a sudden over the loudspeaker they go, “Mike Royce, can you please report to the office? Your mother is here with your snow pants, with your snow pants.”

[LAUGHS]

Henrik: And that’s a thing as an adult, you’re like, “That is so beautiful.” And as a child, you’re like, “Just put a bullet in my head.”

[LAUGHS]

Jon: When did that turn? Do you? Now you love them unconditionally. But did you? Did you eye roll them at any point in the earlier days?

Henrik: Oh, sure. Sure. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think so.

Jay: Yeah, but you were, you were a little nerd the whole time.

Henrik: I was the nerd the whole time. Yeah. Which I think, I think I performatively eye rolled to be like, “God, my parents. What? I like reading books with swear words.”

[JAY LAUGHS]

Jon: It’s like “My parents they’re the worst. Love you guys.”

Jay: Henrik, but also the fact that you still chose to read and not like, just look at porno mags. “You guys. I yeah, I like dirty books. I mean, they curse in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird.’”

[LAUGHS]

Henrik: I was bad at faking it. “You guys read those Dirk Pitt novels, there’s sex scenes.”

[LAUGHS]

Jon: I got to tell you, this is Henry and Kerr. I think cut from the same cloth. They’re very similar, pleasant, you know what I mean? I think it’s a very similar.

Jay: The offense runs through both of them.

Jon: I think the offense runs through both of them and both have that thing, which is like, “Yeah, that’s I bet what soundtrack is playing in their house. I bet it’s always Christmas music.” I bet it’s always some version of ‘A Peanuts Christmas.’”

[LAUGHS]

[Very poor humming of what can barely be described as music]

Henrik: My family knows all the words to that song.

Jay: That’s a good Apple plug Jon.

Henrik: Are they an Apple property?

Jon: And they on Apple?

Jay: Yeah. Snoopy has his own Apple Plus TV show.

Henrik: Really?

Jon: Does he really? Is it a public affairs show?

[LAUGHS]

Jon: Is he on my territory? All right. So let’s get back to Steve Kerr. Do you guys know Steve Kerr? Are you fans of Steve Kerr?

Jay: So I think that we both, like met Steve Kerr, like in different ways, like I met him yesterday at the office. But Henrik has like a different history with Steve Kerr.

Henrik: I don’t have a history with Steve Kerr.

Jon: You’ve met Steve Kerr?

Henrik: No, I met him yesterday, so I came from Second City and he is a known person around Second City. Because when he was playing for Chicago, he would come and watch and now as the coach of the Warriors whenever he goes back to Chicago. He goes and watches a show and they let him come and do the improv stuff.

Jay: Jon, do you understand we’re talking about a man so nice he likes improv.

Jon: Because he’s a “Yes And.”

Henrik: Because he’s a “Yes And” guy.

Jon: He’s a yes and. Here’s what Steve Kerr does and you can hear it on the microphone. A lot of times, like Draymond will be like, “We have got to get the ball to the corner. You’ve got to let Steph happen.” And then Steve Kerr always said “Yes and.” So he’s going to come on. Here’s Steve Kerr and our conversation.

[TRANSITION MUSIC]

Interview with Steve Kerr

Jon: We are here. It is our great honor to have Steve Kerr, who is joining us. World Champion with the Chicago. Was it the Bulls?

Steve: That Bulls, yeah.

Jon: That’s correct. And now also a world champion with the Golden State Warriors and has just announced coming to the New York Knicks, it’s really exciting news that we’re breaking here.

[STEVE LAUGHS]

Jon: I’m just going to start very quickly and say, how dare you have one bad year, maybe two? You lose Klay Thompson. You lose Kevin Durant. And you’re 11 and two. It’s unacceptable.

Steve: Yeah, yeah, we’re yeah, we’re we’re trying to trying to right the ship now. We are, man, I —

Jon: Remember you’re talking to a Knicks fan, so —

Steve: I know and I’m going to be nice, you know, I almost became the next coach.

Jon: I remember.

Steve: Yeah, eight, eight years ago.

Jon: That’s right.

Steve: Phil Jackson was the GM. And you know, that was my guy and very intriguing. But when the Warriors come along and they’ve got Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, Draymond, it’s it’s kind of sad.

Jon: That must’ve been a very nice situation for you.

Steve: You know, it worked out pretty well.

[LAUGHS]

Jon: Steph Curry was so intriguing. Draymond Green was so intriguing that you felt that you had to.

Steve: Yeah, I mean, I talked to coaching friends of mine and they all said the same thing. They said, “Your talent is everything and coaching” – and it’s true. I mean, I remember saying, “Well, you know, Phil Jackson is my guy” and one of my good friends said, “Which job do you think Phil would take?”

[JON LAUGHS]

Steve: I was like, Oh man. And that kind of got me because, you know, think about it. Phil Jackson takes the Bulls job when he’s got Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and his and his career takes off. Pat Riley takes the Laker job when he’s got Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. We’re all dependent on our talent as coaches, and the warriors were already good. You know, they were a 50-1 team. They got all this young talent. So I honestly, if I had taken the next job, I would have been spun through that cycle and been gone in two years. Guaranteed.

Jon: Really?

Steve: Yes. Yeah.

Jon: So was it in your mind? Was it Golden State just happened to be in a prime position because they had drafted? And what was Steph the eighth pick?

Steve: The seventh, I think.

Jon: Seventh pick? I can’t remember if the Knicks were the next. I think they might have been. They were.

Steve: They were the pick, yeah.

Jon: And we picked a guy at that point. He was only 5’2 and he was a little out of shape. Not in the league anymore, but super close.

[STEVE LAUGHS]

Steve: Nice guy, too. I think he’s a butcher in Brooklyn now.

Jon: Very nice guy. Used to get blocked by Mugsy Bogues. You play obviously on the great championship teams with Jordan, the Chicago Bulls. By the way, the year that he didn’t play, the Knicks were allowed to go to the finals that year and we really appreciate it.

[STEVE LAUGHS]

Steve: Seven game series with the Bulls that year. That was it.

Jon: It was, but it was close.

Steve: It was. Yeah, it was tough. That was a tough loss for us.

Jon: It was, and I felt honestly, just really bad for you guys.

Steve: Did you?

[STEVE LAUGHS]

Jon: Yeah, I did. I just saw like, “Oh, they’re so used to winning. They probably don’t know what this feels like.” And then I wanted to come over and be like, “Oh, guys, you need a hug or anything like that where we’re going to go and we’ve got a championship to lose.” You know, you saw Phil Jackson coach that team, but it was a Michael Jordan superstar team. So how much sway does a coach have in a league like basketball is different than any other sport because it’s- there’s so few players.

Steve: Yeah, I think you have to walk a fine line being a coach in the NBA these days and you have to and this is what Phil was really good at. This is what Gregg Popovich was great at too. People have to know you’re in charge. The players have to feel that they have to respect that, but they have to feel that you’re collaborating with them. And it’s more so now than ever. But even back then, Phil and MJ were collaborators. You know, Phil would lead the team with Michael, and he would empower people. He would put his foot down when he had to. He’s an amazing communicator. So there was this feeling of, alright, we’re doing this together, and that’s how I tried to coach the Warriors. It’s a collaboration with Steph and Draymond. Andre Iguodala, who’s back. I seek his advice almost daily. And, but you can’t appear weak either. You can’t appear like you don’t know what you’re talking about, you know. So it’s an interesting balance. But I give them a ton of freedom because basketball, first of all, is a game of improvisation. Collaborative improvisation, if that makes sense. And then it’s a game of, of joy. I mean, and that’s where I think we have really gotten it right with the Warriors. Like, there’s this sense of joy with our fans, with Steph, with our team that if you reach this sort of flow state where things are going well and their pace, pace is happening and everybody’s going crazy, it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful to watch. But you got to pull back every once in a while.

Jon: So you mentioned something. It was an interesting word that I hadn’t heard used as a as a Knick fan. You said “joy.” As a Knick fan I’m unfamiliar with that. So explain it again because I, it doesn’t look like — it looks more like, I don’t want to say scrum. Looks more like a scrum.

[STEVE LAUGHS]

Jon: Why is it in a basketball game — because it is when you’re — when any team is in a flow, you can’t believe how it all felt so effortless and connected. And maybe two minutes later it’s just guys like bonking heads.

Steve: Yeah, yeah. Or the next night, you can’t throw it in the ocean. And you know, it’s a funny game that way. It’s a game of momentum. You’re constantly trying to make good decisions based on the skills that you practice every day. But you also don’t want to impede the guys. You know, you don’t want them over thinking. So it’s there’s this gray area that you’re, you know? We call it fast, loose and disciplined. And that’s a contradiction, loose and disciplined. But that’s the balance we’re looking for.

Jon: No, it makes sense. It’s that idea of structure, enough structure that it can be routinized and you can have expectations, but that there’s room in there for oxygen and inspiration and those kinds of things.

Steve: Yes, but inspiration and oxygen also require mistakes, right? Otherwise, you don’t have the inspiration and the oxygen.

Jon: Was it more challenging after you’d had some success or were the years where the expectation was lower? More challenging? Or was it the pandemic and social issues more challenging? Or does it all come into a mix for you?

Steve: Yeah, I think that’s the fun part of coaching, honestly, is that every season is like a new beginning and you sense right away where your team is kind of in the hierarchy and where you are spiritually, mentally because every year is different, and that’s what makes it fun. But in the seven years that I’ve coached, undoubtedly the most fun was year one because the expectations were low and we won the Championship and that sort of dichotomy, it was just amazing. And then you probably felt this during your career. You know, you do something long enough and you’re on top of the mountain and it gets to be more work than joy.

Jon: It’s an expectation.

Steve: It is. It is.

Jon: You know it’s funny, Steve Martin – He, if you remember, you know, he did those, started doing stadium shows and he did “The Jerk” and he did all this. And I remember reading in his book that he got to a point where he felt like I can’t live up to the expectation or even nostalgia that people have of my act and I’ll never be able to. So I’m done. And he walked away from standup.

Steve: Yeah, yeah. But interestingly, people in that space have gone back like Jerry Seinfeld, right? Like after all that success.

Jon: He never – he was always a craftsman. He was funny. I don’t know what the analogy to him would be in the NBA, but a guy who is just, I guess you would think of him as a gym rat. Like a guy who just loves loves it. And I thought, I’ve always said to him, “I think you did it right, which was you created a show that was existed in a moment in time, but it had syndication rights.” I was the idiot who did a topical show.

[STEVE LAUGHS]

Steve: Right, right.

Jon: I got to be there for the next 30 years if we’re going to stay with this thing.

Steve: That’s right, that’s right.

Jon: When you’re the coach, you’re of the team, but you’re not the team. Are you considered management or one of the guys? How do you toe that line and especially in a league like that where it’s superstars?

Steve: Yeah, it’s a great question. It’s somewhere in between one of the guys in management, you know, and we tried to create a culture where everybody feels like they matter, not just, you know, on the court, but we try to celebrate people’s individual achievements, but also things going on in their personal life. If they’re having children, if they’re, you know, getting married, whatever it is. So we really try to get to know your players on a deeper level. And again, that’s something that Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich were the best at in my mind, because if you really know someone and you trust them, it’s a lot easier to work together through the inevitably difficult periods.

Jon: And brings up an interesting point, though. So it’s, you know, you look at Jackson and Popovich. Two other like, they’re white guys, you’re white guy like, but you’re in a league now that is overwhelmingly black. Does that divide create difficulties? And for you to feel like you’re at a remove that you’ll never be able to understand, especially during the times of social unrest and after George Floyd?

Steve: Yeah, I just interact with every player on a really personal level and connect with that player. And that’s what I try to do with our guys, and that breaks down a lot of walls, for sure. But then you also have to have the awareness as a white guy in a Black man’s game that you don’t know how these guys feel in certain circumstances. And so being aware of that, you know, if you try to pretend like you know everything they’ll see right through that. But if you admit to your frailties, to your different perspective that you have growing up as a white person and you actually talk about all those things, then the walls start to come down. And that’s the beauty of sports really is, you know, you get people from all over the world collaborating and coming together and playing. But I will say that when the George Floyd murder happened and the Social Justice March really began, that was a real reckoning for me as someone who thought I knew more than I did about Black Life. I’ve played since junior high with mostly black teammates. And so my thought was always, “Oh, I think I understand, you know, Black Life.” And then George Floyd hits, and I realize I need to start reading. I need to start learning. And I spent all last year reading a ton of great books. You know, “The New Jim Crow,” “Caste [The Origins of Discontents]”, books like that that are for white people. It’s like, this is a must read stuff. Because there’s nuanced stuff in there that you know you never think. For example, the idea that a Black parent has to treat his child in a much more aggressive manner in order to protect that child from what’s out there. My heart just sort of dropped thinking about that as a father of three, you know, like a police car or drive by our house. I didn’t think anything of it. And then all of a sudden, when you start really looking into things and learning and reading and hearing stories, it’s like, man, I was really ignorant.

Jon: Did you address it openly? Did you pull everybody together and go, “Look, I may not have a sense of what’s actually going on in your hearts and minds right now, but tell me what you think we should do or I should do”, or any of those things?

Steve: We’ve, what we’ve done is we’ve had a lot of guest speakers come in. We had Tommie Smith come in, the sprinter who raised his fist at the ’68 Olympics. We had Bryan Stevenson, civil rights lawyer, just to spark conversation. And then from there, you know, you start opening up and absolutely you share stuff like that.

Jon: You see it’s so interesting to me because I keep thinking, you know, after George Floyd and BLM movement, so much of the white response is, “Boy, we’ve got to start, you’ve got to start listening and learning.” But it’s funny. I was watching old Dick Cavett shows and James Baldwin was on and he was saying the same thing. And so I started rolling back into history a little bit and something occurred to me which was. Oh, we’ve never listened. They’ve actually been saying the same thing since Frederick Douglass, since us, all these hundreds of years back and I’m wondering, is the racial conversation we need to have not oh, let’s learn from Black people. Or is it white people have to really sit down and have the conversation of why is this? Why is this not sinking in? Why are we still a resentful and resistant culture? It’s not like we’re learning anything new. It’s been shouted from the hilltop for –

Steve: Shouted, shouted. Yeah.

Jon: — For centuries.

Steve: Yeah, there’s a great book about James Baldwin called “Begin Again.” The title explains it. Black people are constantly having to begin again because they’ve been telling us, you know, for 400 years, like, what’s happening, but America isn’t listening. Doc Rivers during the bubble year and a half ago after George Floyd had one of the most amazing post-game press conferences, he said, “We, you know, as Black Americans, we love America, but America won’t love us back.” It’s exactly what you’re talking about with Dick Cavett and James Baldwin. We’ve been talking about this forever. So, now you fast forward a critical race theory. I mean, because really, to me, all that means all critical race theory is let’s actually study this and let’s look at real African American history, and let’s teach our young people about the horrors of slavery and the African-American experience. And that suddenly becomes a political tool where it’s like, “Why would you tell your five year old that he’s a bad person?” It’s like, that’s not what we’re talking about.

Jon: By the way, their five year old may be a bad person.

Steve: Well, that’s true.

Jon: They may very well be. But that’s what I’m saying. I wonder if there’s a different approach which teaches maybe goes through and questions. Why has it been so hard? It seems to be white people not reckoning with what the resistance is. So I don’t know if it’s if there’s maybe a framework around that and maybe your experience, you know, you’ve, you’ve thought about this a little bit, but what is the conversation in white society that needs to take place absent of black people having to tutor us on the evil? Like the fact that you’ve got to ever sit down with somebody go like, “Look, man, I’m telling you. Slavery was bad. Like, it wasn’t good.”

[STEVE KERR]

Steve: Yeah, yeah. But to answer your question, why can’t white people have this conversation? I think it’s really difficult to look at the horrors of the past and admit to them. For the vast majority of people, there’s a guilt. I think there’s a horror at what we’ve done.

Jon: Is there or is there resentment of having to talk about it if you didn’t think it was you? This sense of come on, you know, we gave you the right to vote. I’m not enslaving you. Where does that? What do you think that —

Steve: Right. Right. “I’m just trying to do, just trying to raise my family?”

Jon: That’s right. “I don’t have privilege. I’m poor too.” Which, by the way, people’s lives are hard.

Steve: It’s like Mitch McConnell about a year ago was asked about reparations. And he said, “We’re not responsible for what happened, you know, 300 hundred years ago. Four hundred years ago.” Well, we are responsible for is what’s here and now. And as you said, structural racism exists everywhere. And so it’s much harder for a Black person to make the same leap as a white person in any profession. Right? Sometimes I’ll have white friends ask me. They’ll say, “Well, what about Obama became president, you know, or what about LeBron James being the most popular athlete?” Like, yes, but do you realize how exceptional those people had to be to rise through this structure that we have put in place over the last few hundred years that subdues that sort of rise? And so whereas for white people like there’s a lot of people out there who are wildly successful who aren’t really that impressive.

[STEVE LAUGHS]

Jon: Are you saying there’s been a rise of mediocrity in the white community? That’s uh it’s shocking. I almost think the trauma is deeper because imagine for somebody like LeBron James as much success as he’s had, as hard as he works, somebody still wrote the N-word on his gate in Los Angeles. It really is a minefield. And I admire, but it is like, you know, I look at the structure. I was talking to Keyshawn Johnson a while back and I was saying, You know, football. Vic Fangio, I guess, was the he’s the head coach in the Denver Broncos. And during this time, he was saying, you know, “The locker room is a meritocracy and I look out there and I see, you know, people are in here because their talent demands it and they win their positions.” And I was like, “Yeah, I don’t get to talk about the locker turnaround at the owner’s box. Yeah, that’s where the structural part is.”

Steve: Yeah, that’s right.

Jon: But it’s so hard to permeate.

Steve: Yeah, yeah.

Jon: He was saying that he didn’t think that Black ownership had the kind of resources that you could buy into an NBA franchise, because I really think the fight for equality doesn’t happen until the fight for equity is more even. That’s always been my position because otherwise it’s too unbalanced a negotiation.

Steve: I guess this is kind of my point about how a person, Black person has to be so exceptional to rise, right?

Jon: To permeate that.

Steve: Yeah, yeah. To permeate. And so think of that at the corporate level, you know, the world is dominated by white men. Right, so I don’t know the answer but —

Jon: Changing those tributaries.

Steve Kerr: – Of the top, I don’t know how many billionaires there are. And now there’s probably hundreds. But of the 20 richest Americans, how many, how many Black people? Man or woman.

Jon: Yeah. And how do you change that? We found even in a smaller way here in television, right? So television was not — even if you look around now and you go like, Oh, it’s pretty diverse workplace. Ten years ago, not even close to this. And a lot of it was you didn’t realize the internships weren’t paid. So if you weren’t already ahead in life, in other words, if your parents weren’t ahead —

Steve: Right right, you couldn’t get in.

Jon: — You couldn’t afford to take a job for no money and live in the city. And then when the show was hiring, who would they choose from? The interns.

Steve: Interns, right.

Jon: So it perpetuated. And until you started paying interest and changing the tributaries? Right?

Steve: Think about how many ways that is manifested? Right? Societally.

Jon: Think about financial institutions who they hire from certain colleges. And then those colleges, though, are feeders and they look in other places. It feels like for the black community, there has to be a kind of dealing with the trauma. Right? But in the white community, I almost wonder where the resentment and resistance is from. And I almost wonder if it’s resource guarding. And there’s this sense that these resources are being given to those people, even though I didn’t have anything to do with it and that’s being taken away from me.

Steve: That’s 100 percent out there and it’s being exploited politically. That’s the biggest problem, right? It’s being used as a political tool for power. This idea of resentment and I mean, that’s not a new take obviously, but it’s directly related to racism and why things remain the way they are.

Jon: Do you think there is a positive change that’s going to occur? Because to my mind, it feels like we’re regressing? And in your travels and talking to people, is there optimism or are you feeling a certain resignation from people?

Steve: No I think there’s optimism. There’s a lot of great work being done in the grassroots. You know, one of the things the NBA Coaches Association did was every coach and team connected with a local grassroots community service organization that dealing with African-American life. People are doing amazing stuff out there. So from that perspective, there’s a lot of hope and there’s also a lot of corporate help. Where the hope starts to fade is in what you just talked about. You know, the politics sort of drive a lot of where we’re heading, you would think. And the politics are so intertwined with this exact dynamic you’re talking about, and it just feels like we can’t get anywhere politically, even though there’s all these people on the ground who are doing great work and so many wonderful people who are, who care and who are passionate about creating a more equitable country.

Jon: Is part of the problem that people don’t have enough experience with those that they would consider others.

Steve: Yes.

Jon: And is that, you know —

Steve: Yes. That’s, that’s what Bryan Stevenson talked to our team about, he said, “People need proximity.” They need, they need to actually get to know someone who is going through the pain of whatever societal ills are reaching them. You know, it’s great to write a check. It’s great to, you know, send money to a charity, whatever. But when you actually connect with the human being, it’s powerful. Steph and Klay and I went, about a year and a half ago, to Oakland, to a gun violence prevention program that’s in place there. It’s one of the most amazing nights of of our lives. We were all pretty much in tears at the end of it. But this group, it’s a group called Live Free in Oakland. Pastor Mike McBride runs this gun violence prevention program. What they’re doing is they’re getting everybody who’s involved in local gun violence. You know, police, gang members, social workers, mentors, the mayor. You get all these people to sit around a table once a month and everybody gets to talk. And so we’re sitting there. Steph, and Klay, and I are sitting there and we’re hearing from first from the young men who were involved in gang violence and gun violence. We’re hearing their personal stories. “This is why I’m in a gang. This is why I committed this act. I was wrong, but this is what my life is like.” And you hear from the policeman, the policeman says, “Well, in the past we were rewarded for the number of arrests we made.” The social workers talk about the mentoring process. There’s a mentor over here, right? And so the collaboration in this group is so beautiful to watch, and it’s literally it’s touching every single aspect of the people involved. And by the end of the night, you care about every single person in that room and there’s a humanity to it. And it’s like, OK, now we can get somewhere.

Jon: Is there a way to scale that up or make those solutions global? Or do we need midnight basketball for white resentment? You know what I mean? Get like white people that come in and play and be like, just call it like You Mad, Bro. And just like everybody plays, you be like, “Don’t be mad. It’s nobody. You weren’t going to get into that school anyway. Just relax.”

[STEVE LAUGHS]

Steve: Right, right. I mean, it’s a great question. You know, there’s there’s so much to this and you have to start somewhere and, and you think about all the different organizations that are out there that are trying to help when groups can start to collaborate with city government and you actually start making progress in a large group, then you see, you know, a real impact made. But no question, it’s a huge challenge.

Jon: How much is ownership a part of connecting with these issues?

Steve: Every NBA organization has a community foundation that’s raising a ton of money and trying to connect in the community. I think there’s a focus now, an awareness from franchises that we’ve got to connect with our own city. Having said that, beyond that, you know, every individual owner has his own agenda, his own charities, his own political beliefs and, and so there’s always kind of a balance in there somewhere.

Jon: And the big controversy in basketball now is sure everybody will speak about the injustices of America and race, but nobody will talk about China because that’s where their money is. And how real is that? And how much is that calculation a capitalist calculation, you know, on the right, there’s a sense if LeBron speaks up, “shut up and dribble.” Right? Have players not speak up about American [injustice]. In other words, what they’re saying is unless you’re going to speak equally about every injustice, then we’re not going to listen to you about this. And I wonder if it’s cynical.

Steve: I think so. I got embroiled in this two years ago at this point. You know, when we would come to our pregame media, we were being asked about every aspect of political life.

Jon: Oh, I’m sure.

Steve: There was no, there’s nothing about pick and roll coverage –

[JON LAUGHS]

Steve: – It was all about, you know, “What do you think about the latest in China?”

[JON LAUGHS]

Steve: And and it was probably my low point as a coach in terms of my response, I was kind of ashamed of my response.

Jon: Oh, really?

Steve: Yeah, because I didn’t take a stand –

Jon: Right:

Steve: – And so people rightly criticize me. And actually, President Trump criticized me in his state –

Jon: Did he really?

Steve Kerr: – Yeah, the next day.

Jon: Oh that’s so not like him.

Steve: No, I was so shocked.

Jon: Generally, just kind. I believe that he’s the Johnny Appleseed of kind words.

[STEVE AUGHS]

Steve: That’s right. That’s right. But what a weird experience for me.

Jon: Yeah. Was it a social media frenzy where you canceled? Is that was that the kind of feeling that it was?

Steve: So I wasn’t engaged with that issue on social media, but I had engaged in a lot of other political and social issues and social media retweeting articles or things that I saw that I believed in. I’ve been really open about gun violence in America, and I’ve made a lot of enemies on that issue, And so I —

Jon: Although for clarification, your family suffered –

Steve: Yes.

Jon: – A devastating loss. Your father was —

Steve: Yeah. My dad was was killed in Lebanon as it was a political assassination in 1984. And, and so my family and I have all been really passionate about gun safety and trying to make a push for smarter gun laws in this country.

Jon: Right.

Steve: But, you know, when I started speaking out on it, you know, I became that guy. And so then people would ask me about other stuff. So when they came and asked me about China, I was totally unprepared. I gave a terrible answer.

Jon: Right

Steve: And it was embarrassing. And it was a good reminder that you talk about stuff publicly, you got to be prepared for everything that’s coming your way.

Jon: Certainly basketball. The coaches, I mean, are much more outspoken —

Steve: Yeah.

Jon: – When it comes to social issues, much more comfortable talking about the media than any other sport that I’ve ever seen. It’s not as tenuous or dangerous a place for a coach to speak out.

Steve: We talk everything out as a team, and we’ve got guys who are really outspoken, I mean Draymond Green —

Jon: I’ve not noticed that about Draymond.

[STEVE LAUGHS]

Jon: I did “The Shop” with him and LeBron and all that –

Steve: Yeah.

Jon: – And by the end of it, I was like, “Draymond I’m sorry! I didn’t know.”

[STEVE LAUGHS]

Steve: Exactly. No, we encourage our guys to be really frank and, and open and outspoken if that’s what they want or if they don’t feel comfortable and we try to provide resources. I mean, it’s a tricky one.

Jon: I’d always felt that social media had a almost a physical weight. You know, and we were part of that ecosystem, “The Daily Show.” You know, so much of media is incentivized for the most conflict, something out of [continuity]. They’re looking for the nugget that’s going to create the largest blast radius. Right?

Steve: Yeah. Yeah.

Jon: So we made a show every day, but it wasn’t so much. Twitter wasn’t really a thing at that point or was just starting. Now, boy, when I came back, I was surprised at the ferocity of it, the ubiquity of it, and how much like you really do realize, Oh, I can’t really engage in this –

Steve: That’s right.

Jon: – If I want to maintain that internal barometer of, of moral direction that I think I have.

Steve: Yeah, I quit. I quit Twitter in March, and it’s been blissful.

Jon: Has it, really?

Steve: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s —

Jon: That’s good because I’ve been at-ing you and no response.

Steve: So yeah, well.

Jon: Just a little bit disappointed.

Steve: Yeah, no. I saw your, I got it.

Jon: But do the guys get — I mean, this is a, you know, they’re playing a game. And if they miss a three pointer at the buzzer, my guess is, boy, they’re going to get hit with vitriol in a way that is appalling.

Steve: Danny Green was playing for the Lakers in the bubble finals against Miami. Missed potential game winning shot, series winning shot I think like in Game five, got death threats on social media. Death threats that day and then was interviewed about it the next day. And you know, and then has to answer all those questions and then go back out and play. And it’s never been harder to be a professional athlete than it is right now. These guys have their phones at their fingertips. They’ve got criticism and judgment coming their way every single minute. And it’s hard to put that down, especially when you’ve been raised with it. I do know that when I walk in at halftime of every game, every guy’s on his phone.

Jon: At halftime?

Steve: At halftime, yeah.

Jon: No!

Steve: Yes. Yes.

Jon: Wait. Really?

Steve: Yeah. Yeah.

Jon: So when do they have the orange slices? You still do orange slices, right?

Steve: Yes. Orange slices, pretzel sticks.

Jon: That’s right, you got to have a little orange slice, a little pretzel stick, take a little bit of water.

Steve: And your phone. Soon, as I walk in, generally, you know, they put the phones down and, and this is — I’ve talked to my fellow coaches. It’s league wide. It’s and by the way, in 2021, if you tried to be the coach like, “No phones in the locker room” on game night, you’re not used to; yeah, you’re done. You don’t, you don’t even bother going down that path. So you try to use humor. You know you, you know, walk in and “Hey, anybody say anything good about my coaching on Twitter first half,” or you know.

Jon: That’s nice.

Steve: Or, “Hey, was your girlfriend happy with your performance,” you know? And then they just kinda laugh and put the phone down and you know, it’s just —

Jon: Have you tried tweeting out halftime instructions? So maybe when they’re on the floor, I think —.

Steve: – That’s good.

Jon: Don’t you think that’d be awesome?

Steve: That’s really good.

Jon: All right. Final question. How far away are the Knicks and let’s just go to time horizons.

[STEVE LAUGHS]

Jon: My lifespan and the Knicks getting past, let’s say, the second round of the playoffs. I’m 58, so if I hang in there, start juicing, and if I know the Knicks are good, I will hang on.

Steve: Yeah, for longer.

Jon: Will I be on, let’s say, dialysis? Or like, where will I be in –

[STEVE LAUGHS]

Jon: – Before the Knicks in your mind are in that position?

 

Steve: Yeah, you know, we were just talking about Twitter. I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but if I answer this question —

Jon: Yes.

Steve: — There’s a decent chance a lot of people are going to be tweeting about it on Twitter.

Jon: Yes, that’s correct. Generally positive things.

Steve: Might be a little embarrassing for me. So, yeah.

[JON LAUGHS]

Jon: Would Steph ever be bored of this winning that you’re doing and think to himself –

[STEVE LAUGHS]

Jon – Why doesn’t a superstar think to himself, I’m going to take this 50 year terrible burden that’s been on The Knick fans, and I’m going to carry them to the Promised Land? Why? Wouldn’t? What about you and Steph?

[STEVE LAUGHS]

Jon: OK. Listen to this.

[STEVE LAUGHS]

Jon: What if you and Steph, there’s got to be some sort of avatar tiki something that if you touch it and Steph touches it at the same time, I and Spike Lee touch it –

Steve: Yeah.

Jon: – Surely we can infuse.

[LAUGHS]

Steve: But mainly Steph.

Jon: Yes. Mainly Steph. All right, fair enough. If it’s gonna take magic, it’s probably not worth it. Thank you very much for joining.

[STEVE LAUGHS]

Steve: Thank you.

[TRANSITIONAL MUSIC]

Jon: So, we’re back. I’ve just finished the conversation with Steve Kerr. It was fantastic.

Jay: I’m so happy that y’all were able to talk about race in a way that was meaningful, but also talk about the most important issue the Knicks, because I was worried that we weren’t going to get enough Knicks talk.

Henrik: Mm hmm.

Jon: It’s very hard for me to talk about anything in basketball that’s not the Knicks. And it’s very interesting to have a guy like Steve Kerr have had so much success as a player and as a coach and have that all. It’s it really is like when your friend would come back from somewhere and like had gone on vacation, but you hadn’t and so the whole time you just have to sit there like, “Really, beach? Oh, and you snorkeled. Oh, that’s good. That sounds good. Yeah, that’s it’s interesting because we had crackers —

[JAY LAUGHS]

Jon: – for 50 years.”

Jay: Hey, Tom Thibodeau has a name. I’ll call him that.

[LAUGHS]

Jon: His name is Crackers. That’s what they call him. “Hey, Crackers.” He’s like a, he’s like a parrot.

[JAY LAUGHS]

Jon: I thought it was very interesting. The thing that came out of it for me and I think has to be pursued is the conversation about race has to be amongst white people. That it’s enough already asking people to educate — because it’s that whole thing of like, it’s time for white people to step back and really, listen, you’re like, really? Because I think they’ve been saying the same thing for about 400 years now. It’s clearly not sinking in. The white people have to get in a room and be like, “Hey, what’s wrong with us? Are we like dense?”

[LAUGHS]

Jay: And Steve Kerr is a good place to start. Gregg Popovich is a good place to start. Like there are, and I will never give someone like an invitation to one of these like hypothetical cookouts. But there are certain white people in predominantly Black spaces like the NBA, where black people see them and go, “Hey, maybe they don’t get all of it, but at least they said, I’m listening.” And a few head coaches who have been white have done that.

Jon: The least you could do.

Henrik: The bare minimum to be like, “Oh, I’m ignorant.”

Jay: Yeah like –

Henrik: He was just like, “I’m ignorant.”

Jay: – And not even in a way that like makes you seem like you’re trying super hard. You don’t want any praise for it. He even talked about the fact that he can put his foot in his mouth when it comes to like other stuff politically. But like, it was just so good to hear someone say, like, “that’s why I should at least be able to say, I’m listening.” Like him talking about doing the stuff in Oakland with Klay and Steph in regards to that gun violence, I’m like, that’s actually that’s one of those things that’s at the cross section of like gun violence and racial economic issues. So like when he says, “Oh, I want to do something about this,” like he’s actually doing it. That’s, that’s what you want to hear. You don’t wanna hear, I don’t wanna see someone — because the opposite of that is going to be like, “Did y’all know I could do the electric slide?” And I’m like, “I don’t. I don’t need that.”

[LAUGHS]

Jon: All right. So we’re going to cancel the second segment, which was just—

Jay: Ok, yes, yes, yes, yes.

Jon: That’s just me doing the slide.

Jay: Jon, we taught you the Soulja Boy. You have to do it on camera.

[HENRIK LAUGHS]

Jon: I don’t remember what that is.

[JAY LAUGHS]

Jon: I don’t but it sounds quite militant. I’ll tell you what you teach me the Soulja Boy, and I will teach you the Horah.

Jay: Oh, the Horah. Jon, every time we talk, you know I’ve been the Bar Mitzvahs.

Jon: Have you been to Bar Mitzvahs?

Jay: I found the two Jewish people in Mississippi and befriended them.

[LAUGHS]

Jon: I think it’s a wise choice. What was a Bar Mitzvah in Mississippi just out of curiosity?

Jay: It was fun. A lot of fried food.

Jon: See back in the day before Bar Mitzvahs became a thing. You just did them in the back of the synagogue like you did your thing. You had to read from the Torah and then everybody would have like pound cake and you go in the back room. But now today it’s —

Jay: Nicki Minaj goes to them.

Henrik: It’s a prom.

Jon: – It’s not even a prom. It’s i’s more like a demonstration of Gatsby. It’s basically like saying, “The Jews have arrived and we are going to dazzle you with the access.”

[LAUGHS]

Jay: The Jews have arrived. That’s, what chapter of “Harry Potter ” is that in? That’s one of — that’s when they get to Gringotts, right?

[LAUGHS]

Jon: Can I tell you something about Harry Potter?

Henrik: That is a wild thing.

Jon: You don’t have to use this, but this is true.

[LAUGHS]

Jon: Here’s how you know you like Jews are still where they are. So talking to people, I was like, “Have you ever seen a ‘Harry Potter’ movie?” Like, “I love the ‘Harry Potter’ movies.” Like, “You ever see the scenes in Gringotts Bank?” And they’re like “I love the scenes in Gringotts Bank.” Like, “Do you know what those folks that run the bank are?” and they’re like, “What?” and you’re like, “Jews!”

Jay: And then that person says, “No goblins!”

Jon: That’s a caricature of a Jew from an anti Semitic piece of literature. And J.K. Rowling looked at that and went, “Can we get these guys to run our bank?” And you’re like, “This is, it’s a wizarding world. It’s a world where it’s like —

[LAUGHS]

Henrik: You can imagine anything. I truly, I was like eleven or twelve –

Jon: Yeah.

Henrik: – And was like, all like, “I love ‘Harry Potter’.” And I remember like being in the theater and being like, “This kind of f***ed up. It might have been the first time I said the F-word.

[JAY LAUGHS]

Jay: 11-year-old Henrik does not swear.

Henrik: I was like, “Oooh.”

Jon: was one of those things where I saw it on the screen and I was expecting the crowd to be like,”Holy s***. She did not in a wizarding world, just throw Jews in there to run the f***ing underground bank.” And everybody was just like “Wizards!” Even Dobby was like, “that’s f***ed up. Those are jews.” Dobby’s like “Dobby doesn’t have anything against Jews!”

Jay: Oh, my lord. Wow wow wow.

Jon: “Dobby doesn’t understand.”

Jay: Yeah. Dobby, Dobby Tubman. The first freed slave Dobby Tubman –

[JON LAUGHS]

Jon: – Leading us to freedom. Y’all ain’t celebration Elf History Month?

[JON LAUGHS]

Jon: Anyway, the conversation was good.

[LAUGHS]

Jay: It wasn’t bad.

Jon: And “Harry Potter” is a great series and that is our show, everybody.

[JAY LAUGHS]

Jon: Thank you so much for listening. For more content from The Problem, check out our newsletter. You can subscribe at the problem dot com. You can also check out the Apple TV Plus show. It’s really the mothership. It’s the mothership of all this delicious content. It’s the industrial kitchen –

Henrik: Mm hmm.

Jon: – By which we make these things and then distributed through a series of events.

Jay: Yeah it’s like when the go, “Do you make the podcast in-house?” And we go, “It was made in a house.”

Henrik: Yeah, we’re in Jon’s house.

[LAUGHS]

Jon: Yeah. Thank you. You’re in my house. You live here. We will be back next week. Next week is going to blow your mind. It’s a special mailbag episode. We answer some questions that people send to us from the hotline. And I can tell you this many of them end with the phrase “F*** you, Jon Stewart.”

[LAUGHS]

Henrik: I was going to say that had to be hard for you.

Jon: It was. It was not. It was filled with joy, and we are delighted. Thank you guys very much.

Henrik: Thank you.

Jon: And we’ll see everybody next time.

Jay: This was fun.

[OUTRO MUSIC]

Jon Stewart The Problem With Jon Stewart Podcast is an Apple TV Plus podcast and a joint busboy production.

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