Last year, the NBA and the Turner Network Television Sports (TNT) family suffered a very devastating lose when Emmy Award-Winning sideline reporter Craig Sager. While he was well known for his colorful and eye-catching suits and sport coats, he was one of the best sideline journalist to ever work a microphone and was as good a father, husband, and colleague. To those that new Mr. Sager, he was as true a friend as one could have who could light up any room he walked. For those of us that only new him through the television screen, we saw what true definition of courage as he battled cancer with dignity, class and pure defiance and became a true began of hope. Over the weekend, Mr. Sager was honored in the best way possible both before All-Star Saturday night and during the Saturday night festivities at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, LA.
The day began with announcement of the Finalist for the 2017 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, with the announcement of those that will be enshrined in Springfield, MA in September.
The list consisted of NBA referee Hugh Evans; former WNBA forward of the New York Liberty and current ESPN WNBA analyst Rebecca Lobo; NCAA coaches Rollie Massimino, Bo Ryan and Kansas Jayhawks head coach Bill Self; women’s college coaches Kim Mulkey, Muffet McGraw and as a team entry Wayland Baptist University; Tracy McGrady, Sidney Moncrief, Chris Webber, Tim Hardaway, and two-time championship head coach with the Houston Rockets in the 1990s Rudy Tomjanovich.
One person that will be enshrined in Springfield in September is Mr. Sager as the recipient of the Curt Gowdy Award for Electronic Media.
“To have Craig’s career and his legacy preserved with the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame is a tremendous honor,” Mr. Sager’s wife Stacey Sager said at the press conference on Saturday to NBATV’s Rick Kamla.
“You know Craig. He would be grateful, but humble to have received such a prestigious award. I can’t even imagine. I just wish he would be here for this moment of excitement, but with his passion and influence and his inspiration, he is with us always with the NBA family.”
Mr. Sager was for sure there at NBA All-Star weekend in spirit. If you watched TNT and NBATV’s coverage of all the festivities you saw the likes of David Aldridge, Kristen Ledlow and the NBA on TNT Tip-Off crew of Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal and many others conducted interviews or did shows with microphones that had Sager Strong and the TNT insignia and some of the cameramen had Sager Strong T-Shirts in tribute to Mr. Sager.
In between the Three-Point contest, presented by JBL and the Slam Dunk contest, presented by Verizon, a video tribute to Mr. Sager was played on the big board in the Smoothie King Center where Craig in scene in his element, talking with the likes of Barkley, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, Dwyane Wade, Michael Jordan, and San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. They also had highlights of him being honored by fans in all NBA arenas in his fight against cancer. Highlights of him with his wife Stacy, who he was married to since 2001; highlights of simple moments with his two youngest children Ryan and Riley and perhaps the highlight of 2016, his speech at the ESPY’s when he received the Jimmy V Perseverance Award and gave a speech for the ages.
“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,” Mr. Sager said.
At the end of the video presentation, Johnson addressed flanked by the finalists in the JBL Three-Point contest All-Star Kemba Walker of the Charlotte Hornets, Eric Gordon of the Houston Rockets and All-Star Kyrie Irving of the defending World Champion Cleveland Cavaliers addressed the audience by saying, “It was devastating for all of us at Turner family and the NBA family when we lost Craig, but his fight was incredibly inspiring and today it was especially satisfying to see that he’ll always be remembered at the Hall of Fame in Springfield. The Curt Gowdy Award for Electronic Journalism was awarded to Craig Sager today.”
“Those of us and those of you who followed his fight know that the Sager Strong Foundation became a thing and were going to add to that thing tonight.”
What took place next was a shooting exhibition which featured Walker, Gordon, and Irving with each three-point shot made in 60 seconds, a $10,000 donation was going to the Sager Strong Foundation.
In a show of solidarity, NBATV/TNT color analyst and Hall of Famer Reggie Miller, who was calling All-Star Saturday Night for TNT came over from his commentary duties to join in, in his suit no less. He also recruited from the audience Houston Rockets guard James Harden; Toronto Raptors All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan; WNBA champion from the Los Angeles Sparks Candace Parker, DJ Khaled, actor from ABC’s “Blackish” Anthony Anderson and actor Michael B. Jordan.
When the dust settled, 13 three-pointers were made, which meant $130,000 was raised for the Sager Strong Foundation.
The raising was not done as two-time reigning MVP of the Golden State Warriors Stephen Curry was summoned from the audience and ask to connect on a half-court shot to bring the total to $500,000.
If you ever seen clips of the Curry before games or even highlights of the team in practice, he is known for taking half court shots and making them. So, when Johnson asked him how many tries it would take for him to make one Curry said, “Hopefully one, but if your kind enough I’ll ask for three shots.”
He managed to get more than five up, but none of Curry tries went down. However, with the help of O’Neal, Sager’s youngest son Ryan nailed a shot from in close with O’Neal holding him in the air and that helped to raise half a million dollars for the Sager Strong Foundation.
The ceremony took place at center court with Johnson, where a check of $500,000 dollars was presented to Mrs. Sager for the Sager Strong Foundation courtesy of Foot Locker and Kids Foot Locker with the company’s Vice President and General Manager Andrew Gray, the NBA and TNT. Also on hand at center court was Vice President and General Manager of Foot Locker and Kids Foot Locker and Riley and Ryan Sager.
“Stacy Sager and Ryan and Riley, you know what your dad meant to us and we love you,” Johnson said during the ceremony, “and I hope the Sager Strong Foundation could certainly use a half a million dollars. This one’s for Sags everybody.”
Craig Sager was more than just a journalist that wore attire that made you take notice. He was more than just one of the best sideline reporters in pro sports. He was the true definition of a professional, a friend, mentor, leader, great family man and an inspiration that becoming great takes hard work dedication, respect for you craft, while also being good to your family and friends. Mr. Sager was that and then some to those at work with him, competed against him during postgame interviews in the locker room to those that saw him either at an NBA arena or on television and this September, he will be immortalized in Springfield, MA for the rest of time as the newest inductee of the 2017 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class. Also information about the Sager Strong Foundation can be found at www.sagerstrongfoundation.org.
“A lot of admiration for the Sager family and what they’ve been through. We know millions have that same battle and we think of them tonight as think of the Sagers,” TNT play-by-play analyst Kevin Harlan said.
Information and quotations are courtesy of 2/18/17 8 p.m. TNT “NBA Tip-Off,” presented by Autotrader; 2/18/17 8 p.m. 2017 All-Star Saturday Night on TNT with Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Kenny Smith, Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kristen Ledlow and http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craig_Sager.