Craig Sager, one of NBA’s iconic sideline reporter, popular for his colorful coats and tie and for his mastery of the game of basketball has died at the age of 65. He has been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2014. His battle with leukemia has been very public when he chose to continue working the sidelines of NBA games despite his illness.
As soon as news broke about his passing, the players, celebrities, fans, NBA officials and those who admired is tireless work ethic, commitment, and passion to his work showed their love to Sager via social media.
“Craig Sager died as he lived—with courage, passion, perseverance. Fearless and hopeful, a real hero” said Vice President Joe Bidden.
You made basketball BETTER. There will never be another you. Prayers to your family and loved ones.
— Justin Timberlake (@jtimberlake) December 16, 2016
“Time is simply how you live your life.” – Craig Sager. So grateful for the time you shared with all of us. RIP my friend #sagerstrong
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) December 15, 2016
Sager spent two decades covering pro basketball on TNT, work that earned him an induction into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
And during his time on the sidelines, Sager had no problem standing out. Argyle, paisley, floral, seersucker — name any pattern of fabric, and Sager wore a suit made from it.
“That’s always been a badge of honor for Craig,” says his TNT colleague Ernie Johnson. “You say, ‘You can’t possibly wear that.’ It’s like, ‘Hey thanks, you couldn’t have said anything nicer to me.’ ”
Sager had charisma and unmatched rapport with players. Even when players like future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett stopped live interviews to insult his brightly colored suits — “take this outfit home and burn it,” Garnett once told him — Sager was capable of turning those moments into compelling television.
— First Take (@FirstTake) December 16, 2016
In the world of basketball, Sager’s name towers nearly as high as LeBron James’. He was among the first to interview Kobe Bryant at the NBA draft in 1996. He joked with Shaquille O’Neal on the sidelines at All-Star games. And LA Clippers point guard Chris Paul always made time for Sager — even after tough losses.
“When you see Craig, you pep up,” Paul said once. “Because you know that he has the same respect for you that you have for him.”
Doris Burke, a sideline reporter with ESPN, shares that admiration. “There’s a saying in basketball: Game recognize game. There’s a reason Craig Sager is beloved, and it’s the beauty and the magic of what Craig Sager does,” Burke says.
— GoldenStateWarriors (@warriors) December 16, 2016
Sager’s career started in April 1974, when he was a 22-year-old from Batavia, Ill., who rushed to an Atlanta Braves baseball game. Hall of Famer Hank Aaron was one hit away from breaking Babe Ruth’s untouchable home run record, and Sager wanted to cover it for his AM radio station.
** With reports from www.npr.org and justjared.com