Beloved sideline reporter Craig Sager dead at 65

Brian Bernstein
Contributor

Widely known for his bright colors and flamboyant suits, Craig Sager, the NBA sideline reporter for over 40 years, died Thursday due to complications with leukemia. He was 65. 

Craig Sager was undoubtedly the most famous and beloved sideline reporter in the NBA. For more than three decades with the TNT family, Sager was not a hard man to miss roaming the sidelines of the week’s top games.

Here are the crazy suits that made him an icon:

Despite the constant mockings for his wardrobe, some of the most famous ones coming from San Antonio Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich and future hall-of-famer Kevin Garnett, he was able to engage players and coaches about the game with intelligent questions.

After being diagnosed with leukemia in 2014, Sager was forced to miss the 2014 and 2015 NBA playoffs, however, through a partnership worked out by ESPN and Turner Broadcasting, ESPN allowed him to report his first ever NBA Finals game in 2015. It only made sense that he would eventually interview one of his biggest fans, Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James.

First of all, let me ask you a question. How in the hell do you go 30-plus years without getting a Finals game? That don’t make no sense. But I’m happy to see you, man. Much love and respect. I’m happy I was able to witness it in front of these fans. We really appreciate you.

LeBron James

A year later, Sager was the recipient of the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the 2016 ESPYS.

Whatever I might have imagined a terminal diagnoses might have done to my spirit, it somewhat did quiet the opposite. It gave me the greatest appreciation of life itself.

Craig Sager

How much did Sager mean to the basketball community? So much so that all reporters rallied together during his fight and began using the hashtag #SagerForSideline and wearing colorful t-shirts honoring the man. Players and coaches were even seen rocking the Sager t-shirts during warm-ups.

He was a terrific person. He was a hard working, determined, and fighting individual. Despite being known as the guy with the loud fashion, he will leave a legacy of courage and honor.

Jim Boeheim, hall-of-fame coach for Syracuse, was interviewed by Sager after a loss in the 2016 NCAA tournament, and instead of sulking about the loss, had nothing but admiration for the reporter.

I’m proud of you. I’m really proud of you and what you’re doing. You’re a fighter. It’s something we should all aspire to be, and you’re setting an example that we all should be very happy to try and follow.

Jim Boeheim

It wasn’t just about basketball with Sager, it was about much more. He brightened any room he walked into, and he put smiles on the faces of the people he talked to. He brought fans closer to the game and the players closer to the fans. He was one-of-a-kind and will be forever missed.

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