Photo courtesy of Huffington Post: Sager left his mark on sports journalism.
What does it mean to be full of life? Does it mean you have the capacity to act individually, as if no one is watching? Does it mean you are not afraid to be judged by other people’s standards? The truth is, no matter what your evaluation of the phrase is, if you knew who Craig Sager was, you could easily say he lived every moment to its maximum potential, with no regard to how other people would respond. That is what endeared Craig to so many people. That is what made Mr. Sager so unique.
Sager started his career in 1974 as a baseball reporter in the Southeast. He was one of the few reporters to have access to Hank Aaron’s 750th career home run for the Atlanta Braves. After a few years there, Sager went on to work for Turner, covering baseball and basketball on CNN, TBS, and most recently TNT, where Sager was the sideline reporter for the NBA on TNT.
His years covering basketball were characterized by flashy sport coats and demanding questions. Sager brought a deep understanding of basketball to his livelihood and infused his fun-loving spirit into reporting from the court. Sager found ways to have deep connections with the players he reported on, leading him to information other reporters might not have been given. His brief segments, woven with laughter, intensity, and the occasional robin’s egg blue or tanning oil orange suits created a fun way for the fans watching at home to connect with the players they were watching on television. The greatest example of his deep connection with the players and coaches was his relationship with San Antonio Spurs’ head coach Gregg Popovich. While Popovich can be cold and terse during interviews with other reporters, his interviews with Sager were always entertaining and warm.
During the 2014 NBA season, Sager was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. His son was a match for bone marrow transfusions, and the treatment pushed Sager’s cancer into remission. In March 2016, however, his leukemia returned, and this time it was fatal. Sager died on December 15th, 2016 at the age of 65. His death was memorialized by TNT, coaches and players from around the NBA, and the Northwestern football team, his alma mater.
Although Sager died younger than anyone would have hoped, his influence on basketball and the way in which it is reported will stick around for a long time to come.
By Jeremy Hoffner