The trick was leaving. Ann Kerr went with Steve to the airport in August.
“There was some question about whether flights would be going out because of everything that was happening,” Kerr said. “We were in the terminal, and all of a sudden there was a blast. It wasn’t in the terminal but on the runways. The whole place just froze. Everybody just froze. People started gathering, saying, ‘We’ve got to get the hell out of here.’ My mom grabbed me, and I remember running out of the terminal and through the parking lot. It was really scary. I remember thinking, ‘This is real.’”
The Kerrs pondered options for getting Steve out. They learned that a private plane of diplomats was going to the United States Marine base and there might be an available seat on the flight back out. Steve spent hours waiting, talking to Marines. In the end, there were no seats. The Kerrs eventually made arrangements for a university driver to take Steve over the mountains, through Syria to Jordan. (The driver, a longtime friend of the family, was killed by a sniper in Beirut in 1985.)
On an early morning in October 1983, a truck bomb destroyed the four-story Marine barracks. Among the dead were 220 Marines and 21 other service members.
“I remember looking at all the photos afterward,” Kerr said. He started to cry. “I see all these, the nicest people, who I met and they were showing us around the base and just trying to do their jobs and keep the peace. And a truck bomb?”
Kerr said he recognized some of the faces of the dead.
“There is a chaplain who had come over and kind of taken us under his wing,” he said. “The nicest guy. And I saw his face. ...”
Kerr wiped his eyes and took a deep breath. “What has it been, 30 years? And it still brings me to tears.”
In December, John visited his parents in Beirut. They had a videotape of Steve’s first game for Arizona a couple of weeks before. The picture was fuzzy, shot without sound from a camera high in the gym, and they could not always tell which player was Steve. It did not matter.
“I think he scored three baskets, and we must have watched each of them 10 times, rewinding the tape over and over again just to relish every detail,” John wrote in an entry for a family scrapbook made on an anniversary of Malcolm Kerr’s death. He called it “Dad’s and my high point as sports fans.”
In the middle of a night in January 1984, Kerr got a call in his dorm room from Vahe Simonian, a family friend and a vice president at A.U.B. who was based in New York. Simonian told Kerr that his father had been killed.
The assassination on Jan. 18, 1984, was international news, including on the front page of The New York Times. Malcolm Kerr, 52, had stepped off the elevator toward his office in College Hall and was shot in the back of the head. The two unknown assailants escaped. A group calling itself Islamic Holy War took responsibility later that day.
“Dr. Kerr was a modest and extremely popular figure among his 4,800 students and faculty, according to his colleagues here,” Times reporter Thomas L. Friedman wrote from Beirut that day. “He was killed, his friends insist, not for being who he was, but because now that the Marines and the American Embassy in Beirut are smothered in security, he was the most vulnerable prominent American in Lebanon and a choice target for militants trying to intimidate Americans into leaving.”
Andrew Kerr, who was 15 at the time, heard about his father’s death on a radio in a shop near A.U.B.’s campus. Ann Kerr learned about it while waiting at a campus guardhouse, out of the rain, for a friend. She ran to College Hall, to the second floor, where she found her husband “lying on the floor, face down, his briefcase and umbrella in front of him,” she wrote in her memoir, “Come With Me From Lebanon.”
A memorial service was held a few days later. John came from Cairo and Susan came from Taiwan. Steve was the only one of the children who did not attend. He missed another one at Princeton, but attended a third in Los Angeles.
“It sounds bad,” he said. “Obviously, the basketball wasn’t more important. But the logistics were really tricky. And it was cathartic for me to just play.”
He had a breakout game in a victory over rival Arizona State two nights after his father’s death. The Wildcats had been 2-11, but won eight of their final 14 games. The next year, they reached the N.C.A.A. tournament on their way to becoming a lasting national power.
Four years later, Kerr was the target of pregame taunts at Arizona State. A group of students shouted, “P.L.O., P.L.O.,” “Your father’s history,” and “Why don’t you join the Marines and go back to Beirut?”
“When I heard it, I just dropped the ball and started shaking,” Kerr said at the time. “I sat down for a minute. I’ll admit they got to me. I had tears in my eyes. For one thing, it brought back memories of my dad. But, for another thing, it was just sad that people would do something like that.”Continue reading the main story
One of the most impressive parts of basketball is watching a player’s hang time. Not only do you want to see who can hang in the air the longest, but you also want to know how to get that long hang time. When you understand the science behind hang times, you can figure out how to increase your own.
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To understand hang time, you have to understand the importance of jumping. When you jump to take a shot, you can appear suspended in mid air at the high point of the jump. This illusion is a result of projectile motion. Projectile motion simply states that, when thrown into the air, an object, or in this case you, will spend the majority of the time at the top of the throw.
The higher you jump, the greater your hang time. Most players can jump a maximum of about 4 feet. Because gravity is a constant force and your vertical leap is not, your vertical leap, combined with the force of gravity, will change if you work at it. You can increase the strength of your vertical leap by going through exercises with your coach or trainer that build strength and speed in your legs. These exercises include jumping straight in the air, jumping onto boxes or steps of various heights, speed work like sprinting, and strength training for your legs.
There is more to your jump than simply the distance you travel vertically. You also have to take into account your takeoff. The takeoff is when you are running forward with the ball and then leap into the air. Because this is all happening so fast and you still are traveling forward through the air, the horizontal and vertical components happen at the same time, even though they represent two components of hang time. The horizontal component, or the distance you travel forward, does not change over time because it is not affected by gravity.
If you look at total hang time as an arc, or the top half of a circle, you spend half of your time in the top part of the arc, with the other half split between your takeoff and landing. As you increase the velocity and strength of your takeoff, you will be able to increase your hang time. Remember that your horizontal and vertical components happen at the same time; that is why it is represented by an arc. The shape of the arc changes as your takeoff changes. The more power you have in your takeoff, which represents both your vertical leap and the distance you travel horizontally, the high the arc will be and the longer you will appear to be in the air.
In order to calculate your hang time for basketball, use a combination of the laws of physics and mathematical equations. Newton's First Law essentially states that an object in motion will remain at motion unless acted upon by an outside force. This concerns you flying through the air. Newton's Second Law explains how an outside force changes the velocity of an object. Newton was able to put the second law in mathematical terms when the object, in this case you, has a constant mass. This equation is F = m x a, where “F” stands for force, “m” is mass and “a” is acceleration.
When you apply both laws to your hang time, it means that you will come down to the floor at the same rate you rose from the floor, assuming you don’t come into contact with anything. The outside force causing you to come back down to the floor is gravity, which is constant. The resulting force from your takeoff is your mass times your acceleration, or the combined speed and strength you used to launch yourself into the air.
Even Michael Jordan could hang in the air for only so long. The same laws of physics apply to you as well. To create the illusion of a longer hang time, try some of Michael Jordan’s moves: Hang on to the ball longer, then place it in the basket on the way down and pull your legs up as the jump progresses. Remember, all of this happens in about one second, and you spend only half of that second at the top of the jump, so make it count.
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