The Lakers and the NBA family reacted in mourning over the recent passing of Craig Sager, who had spent the past two years fighting a rare form of cancer. All NBA teams have committed to observe a moment of silence in Sager’s memory.
“Craig was a great reporter, a wonderful person, and an absolute joy to work with,” Lakers president Jeanie Buss said in a statement. “He put up a valiant and courageous fight, but unfortunately, cancer won. He will be terribly missed, and our condolences go out to Craig’s family and his many friends.”
Part of TNT’s coverage along with Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Shaquille O’Neal and Ernie Johnson, Sager’s primary role during his long tenure at Turner Sports was at courtside, interviewing players before and after games and coaches during timeout breaks. Even as his flamboyant wardrobe was often the topic of conversation, his enthusiasm for the game and rapport with players and coaches ultimately will define Sager’s career.
“There will never be another Craig Sager,” said Turner Sports president David Levy. “While he will be remembered fondly for his colorful attire and the 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.”
As a 22 year old, Sager worked for a Florida radio station, WSPB in Sarasota. The station carried Braves games in 1974 when Hank Aaron was nearing Babe Ruth’s career home run record of 714.
“I just knew he was going to do it that day,” Sager told Rich Eisen in July. “My boss told me, ‘Well, you can go but you better be back by drive-time tomorrow or you’re fired.’”
Sager wasn’t fired. Instead he was waiting at home plate. The young broadcaster was the first to speak with Aaron after he’d just hit 715. The 65-year-old went on to enjoy a career that spanned over four decades covering mostly the NBA and the NCAA tournament.
This year, he covered the NBA Finals—the first in his storied career.
The go-to sideline reporter had returned to work in 2014 thanks to a bone marrow transplant from his son. His fellow broadcasters donned their most colorfully mix-matched suits in a show of solidarity.
Teams and fans around the league have been honoring Sager with loud patterned shirts and #SagerStrong signs to raise awareness to the cancer research supported by the Sager family.
Sager was honored at this year’s ESPY awards. During his speech he said, “Time is how you live your life.” If the outpouring from fans and peers is any indication, his life was time well spent.