Television basketball reporter Craig Sager dies of cancer at age 65.
Loud jackets and lucid journalism made him king of the court
houston» Craig Sager never once thought about giving up as he battled cancer for more than two years.
“Man, life is too beautiful, too wonderful, there’s just too many things,” he said in late August. “It’s not just you. It’s your family and kids and all. Fight. Fight until the end. Fight as hard as you can.”
The end for the beloved TNT broadcaster came Thursday when the man known as much for his outrageous wardrobe as his relationships with the NBA’s elite succumbed to the disease he fought so hard to overcome. Turner Sports announced his death without disclosing details. He was 65.
“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,” Turner president David Levy said in a statement. “There will never be another Craig Sager.”
His son, Craig Jr., posted a loving video tribute to his father, tweeting: “We packed a lifetime and then some into these 28 years together.”
Sager’s passing brought out condolences from every corner of the NBA and Hall of Famer Larry Bird expressed what many were feeling.
“He was as identifiable with the NBA as any player or coach,” Bird said in a statement. “The league will not be the same without him.”
Magic Johnson echoed those sentiments on Twitter.
“The NBA family lost a legend who changed the way sideline reporters did their job. RIP Craig Sager,” Johnson said.
Sager had a third bone marrow transplant at the end of August in Houston to fight an aggressive form of leukemia. To no one’s surprise, he was characteristically cheerful.
“It really isn’t all that painful, not physically,” he said then. “I think the hardest toll is mentally and emotionally. I have this thing of positive thinking. I think if you think something is going to be right and you think positive, then you feel that way, and if you feel that way, you’ll act that way. I try not to get down.”
Sager announced in April 2014 that he had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, and he missed the playoffs and much of the following season as he underwent two bone marrow transplants.
Sager, who worked basketball games for TNT for nearly a quarter-century, revealed in March that his leukemia was no longer in remission. He said doctors told him the typical prognosis was three to six months to live, but “I am receiving the best treatment in the world and I remain fully confident I will win this battle.”
Sager sported suits in every color of the rainbow and plenty of shades not found in nature, from teal to fuchsia to magenta. He would match plaid blazers with paisley ties or striped shirts — all in bold hues.
Sometimes lost in the glare of his wardrobe was Sager’s relentless nature as a reporter.
Sager’s persistence was on display at the start of his career, when the 22-year-old found himself in the middle of one of the most famous moments in sports history. Making $95 a week in 1974 as the news director at WSPB — a Braves-affiliated AM radio station in Sarasota, Fla. — Sager risked getting fired by deciding to hop a flight to Atlanta for a game with Hank Aaron a home run away from breaking Babe Ruth’s career record.
With a last-minute credential, Sager was stuck in the third-base photographers’ well. As the historic homer sailed out of the park, Sager, without thinking, sprinted onto the field and wound up chasing Aaron down the third-base line. When Aaron’s teammates mobbed him at home plate, Sager can be seen in his trench coat in the middle of the scrum.
Sager worked as a reporter on the Olympics, Major League Baseball playoffs, the NFL and the NCAA Tournament, among other sports. But he was indelibly connected to the NBA.
“Craig was as vital to the NBA as the players and coaches,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.
Beloved NBA broadcaster Craig Sager, who died Friday, was known for his suits and courtside work.