Sager was loved by the NBA players and he began his career in the Tampa Bay Area.
Yesterday, I lost a friend when at the age of 65, Craig Sager lost his battle with cancer and passed away. He was known for his outrageous wardrobe that included suits of many colors as he worked the sidelines as part of the NBA on TNT broadcast team, but that was only a small part of the man I knew.
In an ironic twist of fate just two days ago he was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame. I can hear him saying ‘Well better late than never.”
As most everyone as a sports fan knows he had been fighting cancer (acute myeloid leukemia) since 2014. There were even a couple of times over the past two years that the cancer seemed to be in remission, but alas, it came back with a vengeance.
This past summer Sager took the stage at the July 13, 2016, ESPY Awards where accepted the 2016, Jimmy V Perseverance Award for his gallant battle cancer. In a moving acceptance speech, Sager, in his own homespun way he delivered a brilliant acceptance speech.
“Time is something that cannot be bought; it cannot be wagered with God, and it is not in endless supply. Time is simply how you live your life,” said Sager.
I first met Sager when he covered the old Tampa Bay Rowdies, in the “Golden Days of the North American Soccer League in 1976. I had just graduated from USF, meanwhile, he was working at channel 40 and a radio station in Sarasota, and was just two years out from getting his degree from Northwestern University.
We became friends and as the Tampa Bay Bucs came to town. I began my career at WTOG and I would send game tapes with interviews to Craig when he couldn’t make it to Tampa. We were both one man, news and sports departments and he would send me spring training video in exchange whatever he needed from Tampa.
If he was in Tampa or I would be in Sarasota we would find time to have a sandwich or some pasta. We would talk about our mutual goal of working for a network some day, something that we both were able to achieve. (Craig on a higher level than mine.)
He was the kind of guy who help anyone with asking for anything. He would take time to help young broadcasters and responded to the many fan letters/emails.
Sager and I remained friends over the years as we both moved along in our respective career’s as we left the Bay Area. In an interesting twist of fate my brother was a handheld cameraman for the NBA on TNT. For over three years he was Sager’s cameraman.
When I was in Atlanta for any kind of broadcast he would insist that I drop by his sports bar Jocks N Jills where we could catch up. The place still remains in Atlanta to this day with plenty of sports memorabilia to be seen.
He was a fun guy to just hang around with or just to talk sports with on any level and he really cared about his family, as well as his friends. I am a better person for knowing him and what you saw on TV is kind of the man he was off camera.
At TNT as well as around the NBA everyone loved Sager. He was honest, funny, caring and a very good reporter.
He will be missed and the Twitter world joined those of us who knew Craig as we all said behind. “Rest in Peace,” my friend, you will be missed.
Video from CNN and TNT Sports
Craig Sager thanks for saving my life when I was in dire need of help in Detroit back in 1993. Condolences to your family. RIP my friend.
— Dennis Rodman (@dennisrodman) December 15, 2016
Rest In Peace Craig Sager… Thank you for all your kind words and for showing the true meaning of the word strength.
— Tristan Thompson (@RealTristan13) December 15, 2016
— Isaiah Thomas (@Isaiah_Thomas) December 15, 2016
the sports world lost a legend today. rest in peace Mr. Craig Sager
— Blake Griffin (@blakegriffin32) December 15, 2016
“Time is simply how you live your life.” – Craig Sager. So grateful for the time you shared with all of us. RIP my friend #sagerstrong
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) December 15, 2016
— Chris Paul (@CP3) December 15, 2016