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The Most Colorful Man in Sports

Time:2016-12-16 22:29Shoes websites Click:

basketball obituaries Craig Sager Chris Deaton

Craig Sager, the beloved NBA broadcast reporter who won over the most uncooperative of athletes and coaches with his geniality and garb, died Thursday after a nearly three-year fight against leukemia. He was 65.

It could have taken a personality much bigger than his to fill out his showy suits, which were Sager’s identifying trait. But inside was a fun, kindhearted, humble character that made friends of his colleagues and interviewees, and a mild temperament in what is often a noisy business. All the players in his industry—whether they wore sneakers or oxfords—rallied around him after his diagnosis in 2014, when studio hosts and competitors welcomed his work nights with open arms, sometimes literally.

"I'm gonna ask you a question: How in the hell did you go 30-plus years without getting [an NBA] Finals game?" the Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James asked Sager, his arm draped around the blue-and-green floral blazer that covered the interviewer, after the sixth contest of last year's championship series. It was the first time the veteran—who spent most of his career at TV networks that didn't carry the NBA Finals—had worked a Finals tilt. It ended up being the last game he ever covered.

Sager was awarded the equivalent of an Academy Award for sports, an ESPY, in July for his perseverance throughout his cancer battle. Weeks later, he received a third bone marrow transplant, this one from an anonymous 20 year old. For the first two, his son was the donor.

"I will continue to keep fighting, sucking the marrow out of life, as life sucks the marrow out of me. I will live my life full of love and full of fun. It's the only way I know how," he said at the ESPY awards ceremony.

Craig Sager was born in Batavia, Illinois, in 1951, and was quite the athlete before he embarked on a career reporting on them. He was recruited by legendary coach Bob Knight to play hoops at Indiana University, but he ultimately walked on at Northwestern University to participate on the hardwood as well as the gridiron. He moved on from playing after receiving a couple of concussions returning football kicks.

He wound up broadcasting for more than 40 years afterward. He spent the majority of them with Turner Sports, which owns longtime NBA partner network TNT and TBS. Professional basketball was his signature sport, but he also provided coverage for several Olympics, Major League Baseball—he was a cub reporter on the field when Hank Aaron stroked his record-breaking seven-hundred and fifteenth career homer in 1974—and other high-profile sporting events.

"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," Turner's president, David Levy, said.

Sager was tight with his Turner family, including Ernie Johnson, a fellow cancer survivor and another favorite in the broadcast business, who anchors the Emmy-winning program Inside the NBA.

"He's gone through more stuff, treatment wise, than anyone I've ever known," said Johnson. "I'd stop by the hospital on the way to work and see him, just to watch him and try to fire him up. And after talking with him, you'd walk out of there inspired and say, `How did that happen?' I was there to fire him up."

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