Craig Sager, the popular longtime NBA sideline reporter and announcer for Turner Sports, dies today of acute myeloid leukemia. He was 65. Sager, who at one point had been undergoing chemo treatments in the morning before working a game that night. He had continued to work despite recurrence of the cancer, which was diagnosed in 2014.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said today that teams will observe a moment of silence in Sager’s memory, and Turner Sports issued a statement via Twitter this afternoon:
The 35-year Turner veteran known for his colorful attire had received ESPN’s Jimmy V Award — The Jimmy V Award — given to someone in sports who has overcome great obstacles through perseverance and determination — at the ESPYs in July. “When I was diagnosed with cancer, like so many other people, my life changed forever,” Sager said in a statement in May. “Over the last two years, I’ve done everything in my power to live my life as normally as possible. But at times, you need support and I’m so thankful to everyone who has been there for me.”
Sager missed nearly a year while undergoing leukemia treatment and a bone marrow transplant from his son, then returned to TNT’s NBA coverage in March 2015 for a game between the Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder (left). He ended up missing the 2014 and 2015 playoff and 2015 NCAA tournament. But Sager was able to work his very first NBA Finals game in June, sharing sideline reporting durites with ESPN’s Doris Burke for Game 6 between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors.
Sager had three bone marrow transplants, most recently in August, and more than 20 chemotherapy cycles, including one that lasted for two consecutive weeks. He told HBO Real Sports in March that he’d been given three to six months to live, without treatment.
Born on June 29, 1951, in Illinois, Sager was 22 when he interviewed Hank Aaron on his way to home plate after the slugger had broken Babe Ruth’s home run record with his 715th. He joined the Turner family in the early 1980s, going on anchor CNN Sports Tonight and College Football Scoreboard. He covered a variety of sports including the NFL, golf, tennis and World Cup soccer, but the NBA was his specialty.
He was popular with fans, colleagues and players. In April, the Houston Rockets’ Dwight Howard organized a blood drive in the broadcaster’s honor.
“I, along with the entire NBA family, am deeply saddened by the passing of Craig Sager,” Silver said in a statement. “Craig was as vital to the NBA as the players and coaches. A true original and an essential voice on Turner Sports’ NBA coverage for 26 seasons, Craig chronicled some of the most memorable moments in league history and was a ubiquitous presence with his splashy suits and equally colorful personality.”
Survivors include Sager’s wife, Stacy, and children Kacy, Craig Jr., Krista, Riley and Ryan.
TNT and the league posted a Sager career reel on Twitter today: