ATLANTA - Warrior, the word just sounds special. Players know how to define him. And the millions of NBA fans who got their information from Craig Sager would agree. Sager was a warrior like no other. His now legendary fight against cancer, that would eventually claim his life, just a part of what made Sager, Sager.
In 1974, the city of Atlanta and Craig Sager met for the first time. Sager met new homerun champ Hank Aaron on the field after the record setting blast. The warrior and the brave forever linked together. The young reporter from Florida wasn’t supposed to be on the field that night, but he avoided security and ran to home plate after Aaron’s historic blast. Sager’s son, Craig Jr., a reporter himself, says it was the world’s first glance at his father’s warrior spirit.
“It’s always something that stuck with me is how much courage and fearlessness he had to run out there and do the interview as a 22-year-old radio guy,” said Sager Jr.
Sager would eventually make Atlanta his permanent home, raise five children, and become fixture on Turner networks covering everything from Nordic skiing to tennis.
“When he was growing up, he wanted to be Ernie Banks, be a major baseball player,” said Stacy Sager, Craig’s widow. “But like a lot of us, we are not professional athletes. So sports was etched in his memory and his lore of who he was.”
But it was as NBA courtside reporter where Sager made his name, and where his trademark sports coats came to life. They really did have a life of their own.
“I like the one he wore at the All-Star game this year that looked like something from a Nasa lab. It looked like a galaxy,” said Sager Jr.
And when Sager was first diagnosed with leukemia, his adopted city responded. A local highs school fashionably found a way to raise money for their hometown hero. But when Sager’s cancer returned for the third time last year, he was given just a few months to live. Then came the speech at the ESPY awards, where he received the Jim Valvano perseverance award.
“You know that moment before he went on stage, he looked at me and said I don’t know if I can get through it,” said Stacy Sager. “He nailed it.”
Sager’s wife Stacy was in the audience.
“Time is not something that can be bought. It cannot be wagered with God, and it is not an endless supply,” Sager said during the ESPY’s speech. “Time is simply how you live your life.”
Craig Sager died on December 15, 2016. But standing tall as a testament to his life, and his work at the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame induction, the city that saw his career blossom, now honors the warrior with its ultimate sorting award.
“And to have that relationship intertwined with the city of Atlanta and Turner Sports, it made him who he was as a sportscaster and as a man. It’s pretty special to be honored at the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame,” said Stacy Sager.
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