The Legendary Screwing Over of Johnny "Red" Kerr

Weird coach cost Kerr consecutive games streak

By Eamonn Brennan
|  Tuesday, Jun 16, 2009  |  Updated 12:33 PM CDT
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The Legendary Screwing Over of Johnny "Red" Kerr

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Johnny "Red" Kerr lost his consecutive games played streak for no good reason.

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Any living Chicago Bulls fan will remember Johnny "Red" Kerr, if not as a player -- it's been a few years since Kerr, who passed away this year, has laced up the canvas Converses -- than as the Bulls' local color analyst. Kerr gave his entire life to the Bulls, and the Bulls repayed him in memoriam.

Before that, though Kerr's biggest basketball association was his consecutive games played streak. Kerr was basketball's Cal Ripken Jr. before Ripken Jr.; he was the NBA's Lou Gehrig-esque iron man. And the way he lost his streak is one of the weirder sporting stories you'll ever hear.

CNN's Bob Greene, who was friends with Kerr, wrote about the circumstances surrounding the lost streak. The story goes like this: When Kerr was traded to Baltimore in 1965-66 -- remember when Baltimore could support an NBA team? -- Kerr didn't start the game. As the quarters dragged on, he became more and more aware that he might not enter the game; when it got down to the fourth quarter, he said, he felt "sick":

"The fourth quarter went by," Red told Greene. "We were losing -- that's the worst part, the team could have used my help. I looked at the clock, and I just got this terrible, sinking feeling in my stomach."

So ended the streak, but why? According to Greene, Kerr's coach, Paul Seymour, told him the streak "had to end sometime" and that now Red wouldn't have to worry about the "pressure" from the streak affecting his play. Which makes absolutely no sense. If anything, that excuse makes the way Kerr lost what to that point was his greatest accomplishment in professional basketball even more unacceptable. Johnny Kerr was a great basketball man, and he will be remembered for more than his streak, now since passed. Paul Seymour? Not so much.

Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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