Today, in the late afternoon, legendary NBA reporter Craig Sager passed away after a long bout with acute myeloid leukemia. Sager was 65 years old.
President of Turner Sports David Levy, Sager’s employer for decades, addressed his passing in a public statement.
“Craig Sager was a beloved member of the Turner family for more than three decades and he has been a true inspiration to all of us,” said Levy. “There will never be another Craig Sager. His incredible talent, tireless work ethic and commitment to his craft took him all over the world covering sports.
“While he will be remembered fondly for his colorful attire and the TNT sideline interviews he conducted with NBA coaches and players, it’s the determination, grace and will to live he displayed during his battle with cancer that will be his lasting impact. Our thoughts and prayers are with Craig’s wife, Stacy and the entire Sager family during this difficult time. We will forever be Sager Strong.”
Levy’s reference to “Sager Strong” is a term that gained huge popularity when Sager’s initial diagnosis with acute myeloid leukemia in 2014 went public.
Born June 29, 1951, in Batavia, Illinois, Sager graduated from Northwestern University in 1973. Shortly after graduating from Northwestern, where he majored in speech and served as Willie the Wildcat, the school’s mascot, Sager landed one of his first reporting jobs at WXLT, a radio station in Florida. Only a few years out of college, Sager achieved one of the most memorable moments of his career while at WXLT, getting on the field at Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium to interview Hank Aaron after he rounded the bases for his record-breaking 715th home run.
Sager moved on from WXLT and joined CNN in 1981. Following a stint at CNN, Sager then moved to TBS and finally TNT. While Sager has covered a number of different events including, golf, tennis, NFL, the World Series, the Pan Am Games, the World Cup, and both the Winter and Summer Olympics, he is most known for his sideline coverage of the NBA.
While covering the NBA, Sager was both a fan and player favorite for his engaging questions, on-camera presence, thoughtful nature, and colorful, vibrant suits. While Sager’s wardrobe was the butt of many jokes from players and coaches, his quick wit and ability to laugh made him one of the most endearing NBA personalities. Sager’s popularity was evident when his diagnosis was made public. An outpouring of support for Sager came from all over the NBA. Fans used the phrase “Sager Strong” to describe the bravery and courage it took to fight his sickness. Players and coaches gave their thoughts and prayers for Sager during interviews and fellow reporters donned colorful suits in honor of Sager.
Following his 2014 diagnosis, Sager returned to air in March of 2015 after multiple rounds of treatment including chemotherapy and stem cell transplants. Sager fell ill again shortly after his return to television, forcing him to step away from reporting once again until the 2015-16 season’s opening night in October. Despite having to make monthly trips to Houston throughout the season for treatment, Sager was healthy enough to continue his work as a sideline reporter.
In March of 2016, shortly after the all-star break, it was announced that Sager’s cancer was no longer in remission. Sager drew inspiration from millions of fans by continuing to work past the all-star break through the NBA Finals with as much humor, energy, and attention to detail than ever, all while dealing with intense sickness, travel, and clinical trials.
Sager was recognized for his courage by receiving the 2016 Jimmy V Perseverance Award at this summer’s ESPY Awards. Like Jim Valvano, the award’s namesake, Sager gave an inspiring acceptance speech at the ESPYs.
“If I’ve learned anything through all of this, it’s that each and every day is a canvas waiting to be painted,” said Sager during his speech. “An opportunity for love, for fun, for living, for learning.”
As reported by Sports Illustrated, Sager will be inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame with this year’s class of inductees.
Sager is survived by his wife, Stacy, as well as his children, Riley, Ryan, Kacy, Krista, and Craig, Jr.
[Featured Image by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP Images, File]