Craig Sager was the Rod Roddy of sports — a pleasant, middle-aged guy wearing the loudest, most colorful suits imaginable. For nearly 40 years, the TNT sideline reporter would interview NBA stars while dressed like a stereotypical used car salesman, but nobody found it obnoxious (though San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich would playfully rib him for just about anything). Seemingly everyone found him endearing.
So it was a league-wide loss when, on December 15, 2016, the 65-year-old Sager lost his two-year battle with acute myeloid leukemia. He had been battling it valiantly, getting three bone marrow transplants and over 20 rounds of chemo. As he told HBO’s Real Sports, his goal was to make it five years, despite only being given 3-6 months to live. He made it more than two years, which still blew the doctors’ expectations right out the water. But, as a testament to how beloved he was, during the 2016 NBA Finals, TNT arranged for Sager to appear on ESPN to report on his first-ever Finals game. LeBron James took the opportunity to rib him with, “How in the hell do you go 30-plus years without getting a Finals game? That don’t make no sense.” He added: “I’m happy to see you, man. Much love and respect. I’m happy I was able to witness it in front of these fans. We really appreciate you.” For once, when one man spoke for everyone else, he was right.