Craig Sager, NBA sideline reporter for Turner Sports, died Thursday, the network announced.
Sager, 65, battled a rare form of cancer for more than two years, undergoing multiple rounds of chemotherapy and other treatments. He worked for Turner Sports for 34 years, making a name for himself with his colorful suits and oft-stilted interviews with longtime San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich during TNT’s NBA broadcasts.
“Even though he does what he does design- and fashion-wise, it’s part of the shtick,” Popovich told HBO’s Real Sports. “But his questions are always sensible. They’re answerable and he does it with fun. He does it with humor. I react to that very positively, so we have a good time together.”
Sager worked his first NBA Finals as a sideline reporter in June as ESPN added him to its broadcast of Game 6. He FaceTimed with University of Pittsburgh running back and cancer survivor James Conner before the game.
“I lost 57 pounds and about 100 yards off my tee shot,” Sager told Conner.
Sager was originally diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2014, which forced him to miss 11 months of work. His sense of humor, however, didn’t take a break.
"My favorite time of year – city to city, round by round, 40 games in 40 nights," Sager said in a statement in April 2014, "A dramatic turn has matched me with acute myeloid leukemia. From the sidelines to being sidelined, 40 veins and 40 electrolytes. Too bad, I had some probing questions for (Popovich).”
After chemotherapy and a bone transplant, Sager was in remission and returned to TNT’s NBA broadcasts in March 2015. He also covered March Madness for Turner Sports that year. Just weeks after his return, Sager suffered a relapse.
More chemotherapy therapy and a stem cell transplant again pushed his leukemia into remission. Like the bone marrow transplant, the stem cells were harvested from his son, Craig Sager Jr.
The disease was again in remission before a reoccurrence, which Sager announced in March 2016. This time, he underwent a clinical trail and continued to work for Turner Sports.
“Well, I’ve been lucky all of my life,” Sager Sr. told the USA TODAY Sports Network. “Maybe I was due for an unlucky situation."
Sager, a native of Batavia, Ill., attended Northwestern University, where he was a walk-on on the school’s football and baseball teams. He also served as the Northwestern’s mascot, Willie the Wildcat, for three years.
"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," David Levy, President of Turner said in a statement. "There will never be another Craig Sager. 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 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. 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.”