Craig Sager, the legendary TNT basketball broadcaster, lost his battle with leukemia on December 15, the network announced. Sager was such a beloved figure in the NBA that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told Sager in a December 2015 interview that it was the only time he looked forward to a courtside interview.
“I gotta honestly tell you, this is the first time I’ve enjoyed doing this ridiculous interview we’re required to do and it’s because you’re here and you’re back,” Popovich told Sager in the above clip.
Before the game, Sager and Popvich shared another heartwarming moment when the two saw each other for the first time in awhile.
“I — along with the entire NBA family — am deeply saddened by the passing of Craig Sager,” NBC Commissioner Adam 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. Craig earned widespread respect for his insightful reporting and inspired so many most recently with his courage. Our hearts go out to his wife, Stacy; his children, Kacy, Craig Jr., Krista, Riley and Ryan; and his friends and colleagues.”
Silver said that the NBA will observe a moment of silence before games on December 15.
Five months before his death, Sager received the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the ESPN ESPYs, with Vice President Joe Biden presenting him the award. Sager was 65 years old.
Wearing a vibrant suit that only he could pull off, Sager used the moment to remind everyone that you should not let cancer define you or stop you from doing what you love. He also assured patients that the research being done today will help. “To everybody out there, we are making progress — incredible progress … We are going to find a cure for cancer. But we need your help,” Sager told the viewers at home.
“Do you try to live a lifetime of moments in three weeks or you say, ‘The hell with three weeks,'” Sager told the audience. “When doctors tell you that your only hope for survival is 14 straight days of intense chemotherapy, 24 hours a day, do you sit there and count down the 336 hours or do you see each day as a blessing? 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.”
Sager was diagnosed with leukemia in 2014. Although the cancer did go into remission, his son, Carl Sager Jr, announced in March that the cancer returned. The Associated Press reported that he underwent a bone marrow transplant in September and dreamed of returning to the NBA in November.
Although Sager only lived a few more weeks, he was able to see his beloved Chicago Cubs win the World Series. Every year since 1981, Sager bet on the Cubs to win the World Series. In 2015, he bet $1,000 that the Cubs would win the 2016 World Series and his bet finally paid off. Craig Jr. posted the following photo on Facebook from his father’s hospital bed after the Cubs won the World Series.
“I’ve had a charmed life. I won the lottery in marrying my wife, Stacy,” Sager told Bleacher Report in March 2015. “My kids are a joy. I figured it was just my turn for some bad luck. I didn’t volunteer for it, but I accepted it.”