Words by Rocko Rathon
From The Source Magazine Issue #271 | 2017
In a fight for his life, America’s favorite sideline reporter Craig Sager remains dedicated to his craft
The sports world is an integral part of society in every corner of the globe. Each region has their preferred game and favorite star, thus making professional athletes some of the most famous people on the planet. What makes these individuals become so near and dear to us is the ability to watch their growth and progression, but due to father time, the window for an athletic career is as short one. Lasting far longer though are the broadcasters and announcers who bring the games to life. They too become entrenched in the minds of sports fans. One such man is the legendary Craig Sager. Nicknamed “America’s Sideline Reporter,” Sager has dazzled fans around the world with his astute knowledge of sports, comedic wit and of course, those animated suits.
With a career in broadcasting spanning over 40 years, Craig Sager has been on hand for some of sports most memorable moments. He most notably chased down Hank Aaron as he ran towards home plate after hitting his 715th career home run, surpassing Babe Ruth’s record. Even then Sager was dressed to the nines, donning an all white overcoat making him hard to miss in that grainy footage from 1974. Having worked at several networks including CNN and NBC Sager covered a vast majority of sports, but he gained iconic status when he started as the sideline reporter for Turner Sports’ The NBA On TNT. There he displayed those elaborate suits that made him a target of lighthearted jokes from NBA superstars and coaches. His most notable post-game foes are Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, Shaq, and Kevin Garnett, the latter who famously told him: “you take this [suit] and you burn it.”
It almost became a rite of passage for generations of superstars to make light of Sager’s suits. Metta World Peace, a native of Queensbridge housing projects in New York City, took it a step further and convinced Sager to give a shout out to “Queensbridge” live on air. Sometime in 2014 Sager would face his toughest battle, being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Throughout the process, he’s continued to commentate games with the same exuberance and of course, that trademark panache. Only now the jokes from the pros have turned into words of love, compassion and most of all, hope.
Sager recently told HBO Sports the prognosis for patients with his aggressive form of cancer that don’t receive treatment is roughly three to six months to live. Fortunately, Sager is under the best care possible and says he’s “fighting to the end,” fully set on making medical history. Showing the tenacity of a champion, Sager continues to do what he loves, despite the odds. Describing his outlook, he shares, “I have hope. Hope is as important as breath.”