Craig Graham Sager: Icon, Legend, Inspiration

Thursday afternoon, we lost more than a broadcaster who wowed us all with his perseverance, love for the game, and sideline attire. We lost a true legend, one that will never be replaced. There could be another star who plays like Michael Jordan. One day, there could be another guy who shoots the ball like Steph Curry. We could even have another person who flails his legs in the air when he gets touched in a certain spot like Draymond Green, but there will never, never, be another Craig Sager, someone who touched the lives of everyone he encountered.

Craig Graham Sager always knew how to leave a mark wherever he went. From his time as the Northwestern Wildcat’s mascot, to interviewing Hank Aaron after homerun 715, to the guy court side flaunting one of the most illustrious outfits you could imagine, Craig always knew how to stand out. As he continued to build his legacy, he became much more than another sportscaster and sideline reporter to players and coaches in the NBA. He became a friend and more importantly, he became an icon. He was nothing less than loved by everyone who crossed his path.

I’ve always wanted to be like Craig. Reporters can be known for how they interact with guys, their humor, their love for the game, or even what they wear. Craig was known for all of that. As much as it hurts to be writing this tribute to Craig a little over 65 years after the day he was born, what Sager did in that amount of time is what most of us would consider ten lifetime’s worth of achievements.

What Craig Sager suffered through dwarfs what most, including myself, have ever gone through. However, the message he sent  with his attitude and perseverance guided and inspired me through all hard times of my life. In 2014, when Craig was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia, he took an unimaginable approach to this disease. Whether he was undergoing chemotherapy, receiving a stem-cell transplant or hearing the news that his cancer had returned, Craig had one thing on his mind and that was making it back to the NBA sidelines to do his job. “Who works like that,” his wife rhetorically asked. Craig Sager works like that. His hope and positivity was contagious. Reports stated that Sager used to kick nurses out of his hospital room if they were not positive enough, as Craig believed that there was no time for negativity when you are fighting for your life. His approach to life is one that we should all strive to live by.

The stories of hope that the legendary broadcaster provided us with could take us an infinite amount of pages to cover. I once ran into Craig at the Toyota Center in Houston, minutes away from MD Anderson Cancer Center where Craig was receiving his treatment. Although he was dressed in a florescent red sport coat with a design that I cannot put into words, nothing stuck out more than the smile on his face. He fist bumped me and could not have seemed happier to be in the place that his life centered around, the basketball arena. Craig would schedule his cancer treatment around his TNT game schedule because Craig insisted that, “If [he] missed a game, it meant [he] was losing the battle.” Craig had a dream and he absolutely refused to let his sickness get in the way of it. He never gave up hope.

“I see the beauty in others, and I see the hope for tomorrow. If we don’t have hope and faith, we have nothing.” Hope and faith. Two things that Craig lived by for the last two years of his admirable and inspirational life. Craig did something that only so many people can accomplish. He lived every day of his life with passion, friendliness and love for the game of basketball and most of all, he made Gregg Popovich smile. The beloved Craig Sager will forever be missed. Whether it’s his blood relatives, the current and future broadcasters he motivated to chase their dreams, or NBA family that loved him like a father or brother; Craig’s legacy, character, determination and love for the game will continue to inspire those who admired him. Craig Sager, you will never be forgotten.

5 Comments

  1. Jake, thank you for your inspiring tribute! Beautifully said.

    Reply
  2. Jake, what a wonderful tribute to a one of a kind man

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  3. Jake a truly great article and tribute that captured the essence of Craig

    Reply
  4. You captured the spirit of Craig in your writing — most impressive— great job.

    Reply
  5. Beautifully written tribute to a man you admired and were inspired by. Well done.

    Reply

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