I remember when I was in college sitting at home with my friends. This was the first time in my life that I had cable TV. Up until that point, I didn’t know much about Craig Sager. I had just started my studies in journalism and I still had no idea what direction I wanted to go with it. Naturally, sports was my first choice. But I still was very open to many different paths with the degree.
I was watching the NBA on TNT and of course, Sager patrolled the sidelines asking questions before, during and after the game. I recall sitting and watching the postgame interview. I can’t recall who he was talking to, but I remember vividly how I felt about him. I thought his suit was pretty cool but what captured me was the way he presented his question to the player. He didn’t just ask a question or simply recite a statement, instead he painted the question. He presented the stats, shared the story of the momentum before finally asking the question. For most reporters, you want to get to the question immediately. But for Sager, he doesn’t do that. He instead sets the stage for the question.
“I love how he just paints the picture before asking the question,” I remember remarking. It was that approach that amazed me. Sager knew how ask the question in a way that helped the player remember what had happened, informed of stats and did it in a kind, caring tone that nobody could deny.
I thought he was the coolest. I believed that I could be as cool as him.
His interviews with Gregg Popovich were highlights for many fans. Pop never liked interviews and would playfully give Sager a tough time. But these two friends enjoyed each other’s company. They had fun together. And it was only Sager who could get Pop to stop his shtick for a moment to share his love for his friend.
It’s that kind of infectious personality that endeared Sager to many around the league. Coaches loved him. Players loved him. Fans, like myself, loved him. He covered basketball and early on his career, covered baseball as well as other sports.
He was a man who truly had a great outlook on life, even when he was diagnosed with Leukemia. He was an inspiration to many and especially for those who were also battling cancer.
It’s hard to imagine basketball without Sager. After all, his loud suits and his sweet personality gave color to the league that sometimes felt so stiff. But perhaps the greatest quality about Sager was that he just seemed so down to earth and amicable. He inspired aspiring journalists like myself and made me feel that I could be like him.
I never got the chance to meet Craig, yet I feel like I lost a friend. I think we all feel that way. That’s how awesome he was. That’s how we all will remember him.
Rest in peace, Craig. Thank you for still inspiring me to this very day. Thank you for everything!