It has been almost two years since Stuart Scott passed away, an event that compelled me to write a blog post on his impact in my life growing up as a sports fan.
Today, unfortunately, we lost another sports broadcasting icon in Craig Sager.
2016 has been a rough year for celebrity deaths, but this one might have impacted me the most. This hurt. Sager was a fixture for me growing up as I watched the NBA on TV. If Uconn basketball wasn’t playing, I was probably watching the NBA. Basketball was, and still is, my favorite sport, so inevitably over the years I have gotten to know all the sportscasters and sideline reporters who call the games.
Sager was a larger than life personality. His questions were always on point, even if his clothing choices were, let’s just say, not.
This is my favorite Sager video, an interview with Kevin Garnett who goes off on a tangent about Sager’s suit:
Although Sager’s outfits were goofy, his courageous battle with leukemia these last two-plus years was anything but. Even through rounds of treatment – including three stem cell transplants – Sager was fiercely dedicated to his job, working the sidelines even while receiving treatment. He lived for broadcasting.
Like Stuart Scott, Sager was the recipient of the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the ESPYs earlier this year. His speech was, like Scott’s, incredibly moving. I don’t throw the term “inspirational” around lightly – it seems to be overused these days – but his eloquence and perspective on life was an inspiration to anyone who has been dealt a cruel hand.
His passing was especially difficult today because I was finding myself a bit down. Although my struggles with muscular dystrophy pale in comparison to what Sager had to endure, his example is a reminder to us all to cherish each day no matter what your circumstances may be. Nothing is guaranteed.
Well, almost nothing is guaranteed. I can guarantee that the NBA on TNT will never be same. Although I don’t watch the NBA as much as I used to, I still follow the sport, and tune in to the big games from time to time. Half the fun was tuning in to see what Craig Sager was wearing as he roamed the sidelines.
The best tribute to Sager has been, ironically, on Twitter. With a platform like Twitter, as you know, even the most noble, uplifting, genuine people seem to get knocked off their pedestal by hate-filled commenters. Not today. Not with Sager.
I scrolled through hundreds of tweets, and saw the love from all walks of life – fans, current and former NBA players, even Vice President Biden. Everyone memorialized him, grieved him, cherished him.
Perhaps his greatest accomplishment was when he got notorious curmudgeon Gregg Popovich to crack a smile, which is no small feat:
Sager leaves an indelible, colorful void. He was one-of-a-kind, a decent man in a world that needs more of them.