Craig Sager: A True Sports Icon

“Time is simply how you live your life.”

I don’t usually start off an article with a quote because that’s not what they teach you in school, but I feel this time it is necessary. As we all know, the basketball world lost a true icon in Craig Sager yesterday after he lost his long battle with cancer. Sager was only 65 years old and was taken from us and the basketball world far too soon.

Craig truly lived life to the fullest. The fact that his first reporting job started off when he was on the field at the time Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s MLB home run record is not only a great way to start your first job, but a great way to start a legendary career. A career that saw him cover all types of sports that included: baseball, the Olympics, golf, horse racing, and of course, basketball.

For me, when I first became interested in basketball and started watching the NBA, there were only a few aspects I remember that kept me engaged with the game from the beginning. Those were: Marv Albert’s voice during a game, Kobe Bryant’s flashy dunks and plays, and Craig Sager’s suits and interviews.

Craig Sager to me wasn’t just your regular and basic sideline reporter. He was someone who you can look forward to at least three-four times during a game and can pick him out easily in a crowd of 20,000+ people. My favorite interviews with him, and I bet a lot can agree, were the ones he would do with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and Kevin Garnett.

The one interview that is always in the back of my mind and will forever be remembered is  the one when Garnett told Sager to go home and burn everything about the outfit he was wearing from neck to toe. No matter how many times I watch that, it still brings me to laugh and puts a smile on my face. And of course, you can’t forget the interviews when Popovich would give attitude and one word answers and say how ridiculous it is that coaches have to do this during games.

These are just a few of the memories and interviews I will miss dearly.

He was a sports icon and one that will be remembered for generations to come. He truly is an inspiration after you hear the stories of him fighting so hard not just to beat cancer, but to go to work and get back on that sideline.

I’ve always thought that I am a true fan of the game and that to me basketball is everything, but compared to Sager, he makes my love for the game just look small.

The fact that he had the courage and the fight to go to work for a few games, call a game during the NBA Finals, and go to pre-season games just visually shows his love for the game of basketball was much larger than anyone else’s.

It was great that he was given the Jimmy V Award at this past year’s ESPY Awards Show because his speech not only touched me, but touched all fans not just of the NBA, but sports fans as a whole. In my brief 19 year lifetime, I have never seen someone who was dying of cancer, be so positive and happy with his life and fight the way Sager did.

He was so positive during that speech and was so dedicated to not just fighting, but to finding an overall cure that would wipe cancer out completely. To me, I would call him the modern-day Jimmy V because I honestly can’t compare him to anyone else and that speech had the effect that Jimmy’s did.

If there’s one thing that I have learned from his recent battle and sudden death, it’s that you don’t need to be one of the best coaches in the game, an All-Time great or All-Star  caliber player, or even a broadcaster with catchy sayings to make an impact not just on the game of basketball, but in the world of sports.

Craig Sager will be deeply missed not just by the professionals, or of the NBA, but by fans of his work and his journey. It’ll be hard for a while watching TNT games and knowing he won’t be on that sideline reporting anymore and won’t be able to hear his voice when they pitch it to him. However, knowing his love for the game, I know he will be looking down and be with the crew every Thursday night watching from he sidelines and will forever be with us every Thursday night TNT double-header.

As a fellow Chicago-in, I’m happy that he was able to watch his beloved Cubs win a world series before he passed because I knew how much he loved his Cubbies and is what great he was able to see the streak end during his lifetime.

That being said, in the spirit of all, we need to keep fighting for Sager even with him gone. We need to keep donating, keep the research going, and find a cure for cancer. It’s what Craig wants and we should do him right by fighting for him just the way he fought for himself over these past few years.

He said at the ESPY’s that he would, “never give up and never give in” well it’s time for us not to give up the fight for the man who warmed our hearts and brought even more enjoy not just to the game of basketball, but sports as a whole.

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