‘A true orig­i­nal’

Lukemia claims TV leg­end who spent decades chat­ting with all-time greats

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By ASSOCIATED PRESS in Hous­ton

Le­gendary NBA re­porter Craig Sager dies of leukemia at the age of 65.>

Dap­per US tele­vi­sion sports­caster Craig Sager, who donned flam­boy­ant out­fits as he in­ter­viewed coaches and play­ers dur­ing decades as an NBA side­line re­porter and res­o­lutely worked even dur­ing treat­ment for leukemia, has died at age 65, Turner Sports said on Thurs­day.

Sager cov­ered an ar­ray of sport­ing events, in­clud­ing the Olympics, but was most closely associated with NBA broad­casts.

While work­ing for Turner Sports, he con­ducted side­line in­ter­views for a quar­ter of a cen­tury with such NBA stars as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Du­rant and Stephen Curry and coaches like Gregg Popovich — al­ways clad in his trade­mark col­or­ful jack­ets and ties.

Sager was di­ag­nosed in 2014 with acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone mar­row, and had bone mar­row trans­plants and chemo­ther­apy.

The treat­ment forced him to miss the 2014-15 NBA sea­son, but he re­turned to work af­ter get­ting a bone mar­row trans­plant from his son.

Sager dis­closed in March his cancer had re­turned, and doc­tors told him he had just months to live.

He con­tin­ued to work through the NBA play­offs, in­clud­ing the Fi­nals between the even­tual cham­pion Cleve­land Cava­liers and the Golden State War­riors in June, while un­der­go­ing chemo­ther­apy treat­ments.

“If I didn’t do this, I’d just be sit­ting in some hos­pi­tal bed some­where, hooked up to some IVs, slowly with­er­ing away,” Sager told GQ mag­a­zine in May.

“This keeps me go­ing. This keeps me en­er­gized. It gives me hope.”

NBA com­mis­sioner Adam Sil­ver called Sager “as vi­tal to our league as the play­ers and coaches” and “a true orig­i­nal.”

“Craig earned wide­spread re­spect for his in­sight­ful re­port­ing and in­spired so many most re­cently with his courage,” Sil­ver said in a state­ment.

Turner Sports pres­i­dent David Levy said that while Sager would be re­mem­bered for his wardrobe and in­ter­views, “it’s the de­ter­mi­na­tion, grace and will to live he dis­played dur­ing his bat­tle with cancer that will be his last­ing im­pact.”

Sager’s suits, jack­ets and ties were a sea of ca­nary yel­low, fire-en­gine red, aqua, li­lac, pur­ple, royal blue, checks, plaids, pais­leys, stripes, flower prints and in­de­scrib­able pat­terns — some­times off the rack and some­times cus­tom made.

“I like lots of color,” he told GQ. “And when I lay it out on my bed be­fore I pack and go, it looks good. Now, when it gets on TV, some­times it doesn’t match as well as I thought it did in my bed­room.”

Sager also cov­ered Ma­jor League Base­ball, the Na­tional Foot­ball League, World Cup soc­cer, col­lege bas­ket­ball, Wim­ble­don ten­nis, the Ken­tucky Derby and auto rac­ing.

“When­ever Craig Sager is cov­er­ing your game, you know it’s a big one,” Cavs cap­tain James told Sports Il­lus­trated in April.

Reign­ing NBA MVP Stephen Curry of the Golden State War­riors said Sager “brought out the best in ev­ery­one he met.”

Sager was re­mem­bered fondly on Thurs­day by cur­rent and re­tired ath­letes, me­dia col­leagues and even US po­lit­i­cal lead­ers.

Vice-pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den called him “fear­less and hope­ful, a real hero.”

Sager in­ter­viewed Hank Aaron on the field af­ter the base­ball slug­ger’s record-set­ting 715 th home run in 1974, and he slept in a stall next to Seat­tle Slew the night be­fore the horse won thor­ough­bred rac­ing’s Triple Crown in 1977.

He also talked ec­cen­tric NBA star Den­nis Rod­man out of com­mit­ting sui­cide in 1993.

Rod­man wrote on Twit­ter on Thurs­day: “Craig Sager — thanks for sav­ing my life when I was in dire need of help in Detroit back in 1993.”

Sager had five chil­dren from two mar­riages. His wife, Stacy, was a mem­ber of the Chicago Bulls dance squad.

Craig Sager ac­cepts the Jimmy V award for per­se­ver­ance at the ESPY Awards at Mi­crosoft Theater in Los An­ge­les on July 13. Sager speaks be­fore the NCAA Fi­nal Four col­lege bas­ket­ball cham­pi­onship game between Vil­lanova and North Carolina in Hous­ton on April 4. Sager ac­knowl­edges the crowd dur­ing a time­out in a game between the Chicago Bulls and the Ok­la­homa City Thun­der in Chicago last sea­son. Sager is handed the ball by Chicago Cubs first base­man An­thony Rizzo af­ter throw­ing out the cer­e­mo­nial first pitch be­fore a game between the Chicago Cubs and the Los An­ge­les Dodgers at Wrigley Field in Chicago on June 1.

AP / USA TO­DAY

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