Craig Sager, TNT’s veteran NBA courtside reporter known as much for the clothes he wore as the questions he asked, died after a battle with cancer.
“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. There will never be another Craig Sager,” Turner president David Levy said in a statement Thursday. “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 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.”
Sager battled the disease publicly. He was initially diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2014. The combination of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant from his son, Craig Sager Jr., allowed him to return to his job in March 2015.
The cancer returned shortly after but Sager beat it again. During a March 2016 appearance on HBO’s “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel,” Sager said doctors had given him “three to six” months to live. Sager would later clarify that prognosis, saying it was for a patient who was not receiving treatment.
Craig Sager has died at age 65.
“Fortunately,” Sager said, “I am receiving the best treatment in the world.”
During his battle, Sager received support from the NBA’s biggest stars. Some had grown up watching him work the sidelines sporting his eye-catching, electric wardrobe, asking questions of players and coaches. Sager joined then Turner-owned CNN in 1981, working as a sports anchor. He moved over to TNT when the network got the NBA package in 1989.
It was there Sager developed his shtick. He was a perfect match for the NBA. While the league promoted its stars, Sager, behind a microphone, became an unlikely one. After all, he was “just” a courtside reporter, a guy who received limited air time.
Through all the years, Sager made the most of it. A combination of his rapport with the players and his distinctive (to say the least) wardrobe, helped him become one of the league’s most well known voices.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver shared his thoughts of Sager in a statement released Thursday.
“I — along with the entire NBA family — am deeply saddened by the passing of Craig Sager. Craig was as vital to the NBA as the players and coaches. A true original and an essential voice on Turner Sports’ NBA coverage for 26 seasons, Craig chronicled some of the most memorable moments in league history and was a ubiquitous presence with his splashy suits and equally colorful personality,” Silver said.
Silver also announced that NBA teams are planning to observe a moment of silence in his memory.
While Sager’s questions were often pointed, he was not considered a harsh interrogator. Nonetheless, he was a perfect fit for the NBA’s product. Sager’s style meshed with a league based on glitz, individuality, and sensational one-on-one moves.
Craig Sager interviews LeBron James wearing one of his flamboyant suits.
(Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)
Sager would soon became known for his eclectic sense of fashion, which was evident all the way back to his high school days in Batavia, Illinois. During his senior year, male students were asked to wear black or navy blazers for their class picture.
“And I thought, why do I want to look like everyone else? I was a big fan of The Monkees, and I had this electric blue nehru jacket, like the one Micky (Dolenz, the Monkees drummer/lead singer) would wear,” Sager once said. “So, I wore that and showed up and they said, ‘We told you: a blue or black sportcoat.’ I argued that it was actually blue, created a little controversy.”
And he also found out that while clothes don’t make the man, they can draw attention to him. This was not a bad thing in the business Sager would chose to work in. After graduating from Northwestern, he auditioned for a job at a TV station in Florida wearing a blue/yellow/white seersucker jacket.
“I wore that and memorized the weather and they told me I did a great job,” Sager said. “And then they said, ‘But you can’t wear clothes like that. Our cameras can’t adjust.’ You mean to say I’m in Florida and I can’t wear bright clothes?”
Sportscaster Craig Sager smiles during an interview on Aug. 30.
(David J. Phillip/AP)
When he made it to CNN, Sager was often told to back off when he started wearing brighter clothes. Once he started working on NBA telecasts, he pushed the envelope. Sager once counted 135 suits hanging in his closet
“If I’ve worn something before, I’ll change the buttons or wear a different shirt,” Sager said. “People say I never wear the same thing twice, but I’m not that egotistical. They just haven’t seen me wear the same thing twice.”
It became common for players and coaches to play off his wardrobe. Kevin Garnett, concluding an interview with Sager (who was dressed in different shades of red from head to toe), said: “Tonight I’m stressing to you, take this (your clothes) home and burn it….the shoes too.”
Or Greg Popovich, grabbing Sager’s pocket square and blowing his nose in it.
Then there was Lakers coach Phil Jackson, in a halftime interview with the pink-and-white clad Sager, saying: “You know I didn’t recognize you at first. You look like the Good Humor ice cream man standing over here.”
Yet the article of clothing Sager may most be remembered for is a simple drab trench coat he borrowed from his father. It became part of baseball history in 1974, the night of Monday April 8 when Hank Aaron hit his 715th career home run, passing Babe Ruth on the all-time list.
Sager, then 22, was working for WSPB-AM, an Atlanta Braves radio affiliate in Sarasota, Fla., making $95 a week. He was the news director of the station providing updates during morning and afternoon drive time. He supplemented his income by tending bar.
Sager convinced his boss to let him “cover” the Dodgers-Braves game that magical night. His boss. Cliff Lansen said yes, under one condition. If Sager did not make it back for his Tuesday shift he would be fired.
Craig Sager throws out the first pitch at Wrigley Field before a Cubs game in June.
When Aaron launched the record breaking dinger, Sager literally captured the moment. He had been watching from the camera well on the third-base side of Fulton County Stadium, while most photographers were working out of the first-base side to catch Aaron’s righty swing.
“I ran out onto the field without thinking and met Aaron as he rounded the bases between third base and home,” Sager said. He wound up getting an immediate reaction interview with the new HR King during preparations for another ceremony.
“It’s hard to imagine anything more memorable,” Sager said.
A few weeks later he got to play the tape of the interview for Aaron. That interview is in baseball’s Hall of Fame.
A crowning moment, albeit early, in a career of a broadcaster who was truly an individual.
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News