Craig Sager, a sideline reporter for CNN and Turner Sports, has died a little over 2 and a half years after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
Craig Sager, the sideline reporter for CNN and Turner Sports, whose career took him from chasing Hank Aaron down the third base line to being saluted by LeBron James in his final interview, has died a little over 2 and a half years after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
Sager underwent a bone marrow transplant following his AML diagnosis back in April 2014—his son Craig Jr was the donor. Sager remained absent from his sports reporter job for just under a year before he found his strength to return to the court. He did not stay long in remission, however, and the deadly cancer returned in March 2015. Another round of transplant with Craig Jr’s bone marrow followed, but it was unsuccessful; the leukemia returned.
“I've already had 2 stem cell transplants,” Sager said on HBO. “Very rarely does somebody have a third, so I have to maintain my strength so I can go through this.” He maintained his resolve to continue working despite this setback. He received his third transplant in August, this time from an anonymous donor.
When receiving the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the 2016 ESPYS in July this year from Vice President Joe Biden, Sager said, “Whatever I might have imagined a terminal diagnosis would do to my spirit, it’s summoned quite the opposite—the greatest appreciation for life itself.”
Sager, who was known as much for his colorful jackets as his on-court interviews with National Basketball Association (NBA) players and coaches, amazed doctors and fans alike with his public fight with AML. Sager sometimes had treatment in the morning at MD Anderson in Texas, and then left the facility to travel to an assignment. He also worked with the cancer care community to raise awareness about AML, appearing in videos and doing interviews about the need for more research.
The veteran broadcaster covered a variety of sports during his long career, from baseball to golf to the Olympics. As a young broadcaster, he chased down the Atlanta Braves' Hank Aaron after he hit the 715th home run to top Babe Ruth's record.
But he was most identified with the NBA and his one-of-a-kind wardrobe, which made him easy to find during a midcourt media scrum. Even as he battled cancer, his wardrobe didn't change, and on Thursday night and Friday, sports figures and broadcasters wore T-shirts that resembled the flower-decked jacket that Sager wore at the ESPY awards.
During the 2016 NBA Finals, he worked the sideline during Game 6 of the classic series between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden Warriors. His employer, TNT, and ESPN—which held the rights to the NBA Finals—worked out an arrangement for Sager to work the Finals since he had never had the opportunity during his long career.
Cavaliers' superstar LeBron James saluted Sager during the postgame interview, having just scored 41 points to force a Game 7. "First of all, let me ask you question: How in the hell are you going to go 30-plus years without getting a Finals game? That don't make no sense. But nah, I'm happy to see you, man. Much love and respect. And I am happy you were able to witness this in front of these fans. We really appreciate it."
It would be Sager's last courtside interview.