Longtime Turner Sports sideline reporter Craig Sager passed away Thursday after a lengthy battle with leukemia. He was 65.
“Craig Sager was a beloved member of the Turner family for more than three decades and he has been a true inspiration to all of us,” Turner president David Levy said in a statement. “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.”
Sager, a native of Batavia, Illinois, was diagnosed with the disease in April 2014. It caused him to miss that spring's NBA Playoffs and a good portion of the 2015 season. It was in Chicago, nearly one year after his diagnosis, where Sager returned to the sidelines to cover Bulls-Thunder. He received a standing ovation from the United Center crowd.
Later that month Sager was working a Bulls-Rockets telecast on TNT. During an in-game interivew, Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg bypassed Sager's question to relay well-wishes of good health.
"Craig, first of all I just want to tell you how great you look, man," Hoiberg said. "You're an inspiration to everybody. I want to tell you how much it meant to me a couple years ago in the NCAA Tournament having the opportunity to be interviewed by you. I wasn't ever good enough as a player to get interviewed by you. That was a real thrill for me. I just want you to know - and I know I'm speaking on behalf of everybody in the NBA - we're praying for you, and to keep fighting."
Later that season Sager was asked by ESPN to join their broadcast team for Game 6 of the NBA Finals. It was the first time Sager had covered an NBA Finals game.
A few weeks before covering the NBA Finals, Sager, a lifelong Cubs fans, was a guest at Wrigley Field and threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Conquer Cancer Day. He joined SportsTalk Live to discuss his battle with cancer (which you can watch in full in the video above).
"I don't want to miss anything," he said. "It's not because I have this disease. You don't know how much time you have left, and the future's uncertain, you can't buy time, and all the cliches. But I've never had a bad day in my life. Every day is happy and I really have never been down. I don't like to be around negative people."
Sager was named the recipient of the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the ESPYS this past summer, where he gave a passionate speech about the importance of time.
It was similar to the message he gave at Wrigley Field six months earlier.
"I'm not fighting just for me," he said. "I'm representing everybody who's fighting cancer. And we don't give up and we don't give in, and don't let it affect your attitude, don't let it affect your job, your life, whatever, if you can help it."
Dwyane Wade shared a video tribute to Sager on Instagram, in which he called the sideline reporter a "legend."
"Just woke up and heard the news about Craig Sager. I just want to share this. In our sport, people always throw around the word 'legend' or 'legacy.' And to me, having a legacy is what Craig Sager has," Wade said in the video. He was someone that we all wanted to be around, he was someone that, when the game was over, we couldn't wait to get interviewed. Whether we were going to talk about his suit, we were going to be interviewed by the greatest. Leaving a legacy is leaving a story to tell. Craig has left us with so many stories to tell, so many memories, so many moments. Whether it's people who want to be like him, whether it's people that never met him and just seen him from afar and enjoy his light that shined on him. That's a legacy. That's a legend.
"So I want to thank God for allowing us to touch, and be friends, and be a part of a real-life, on-earth legend. Your legacy will never be forgotten."
The Bulls and other members of the team also posted heartfelt thoughts on Sager's passing.
R.I.P Craig Sager #SagerStrong— Felicio (@IamFelicio) December 15, 2016