Tele­vi­sion bas­ket­ball re­porter Craig Sager dies of can­cer at age 65.

Loud jack­ets and lu­cid jour­nal­ism made him king of the court

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Kristie Rieken

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.

Ron­ald Martinez, Getty Im­ages

Beloved NBA broad­caster Craig Sager, who died Fri­day, was known for his suits and court­side work.

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