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Longtime NBA broadcaster Craig Sager dies at 65 from leukemia

Craig Sager

Photo Credit: Tannen Maury /Europoean Pressphoto Agency

Legendary sideline reporter and NBA announcer Craig Sager died Thursday. He was 65.

The Turner Sports broadcaster was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2014. He went through multiple courses of treatment, including chemotherapy and stem cell transplants, to try to beat the disease.

His determination inspired many through his battle with the disease.

“Craig Sager was a beloved member of the Turner family for more than three decades and he has been a true inspiration to all of us,” Turner president David Levy said in a statement. “There will never be another Craig Sager. His incredible talent, tireless work ethic and commitment to his craft took him all over the world covering sports.

“While he will be remembered fondly for his colorful attire and the TNT sideline interviews he conducted with NBA coaches and players, it’s the determination, grace and will to live he displayed during his battle with cancer that will be his lasting impact. Our thoughts and prayers are with Craig’s wife, Stacy, and the entire Sager family during this difficult time. We will forever be Sager Strong.”

Sager missed almost a year of work before being cleared to return in March 2015 – only to see the cancer return. Once again he was forced to step aside. He came back for the NBA’s 2015-16 Media Day in September 2015 and returned to Opening Night the next month. He was still healthy when the NBA All-Star Weekend rolled around in February. In March of this year, however, he publicly revealed that his leukemia was no longer in remission.

Yet he continued to work, juggling treatments and broadcasting duties. This past summer, he was recognized with the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the ESPY Awards. He gave a moving acceptance speech, which you can watch below.

“When you are diagnosed with a terminal disease like cancer, leukemia, your perception of time changes,” Sager said. “When doctors tell you you have three weeks to live, do you try to live a lifetime of moments in three weeks? Or do you say, ‘To hell with three weeks?’ When doctors tell you your only hope of survival is 14 straight days of intense chemotherapy, 24 hours a day, do you sit there and count down the 336 hours? Or do you see each day as a blessing? Time is something that cannot be bought. It cannot be wagered with God. And it is not an endless supply. Time is simply how you live your life.

“I’m not an expert on time, or on cancer, or on life itself. I’m a kid from the small Illinois town of Batavia, who grew up on the Chicago Cubs, and made sports his life’s work, although there’s never been a day where it actually seemed like work. I have run with the bulls in Pamplona. I have raced with Mario Andretti in Indianapolis. I have climbed the Great Wall of China. I have jumped out of airplanes over Kansas. I have wrestled gators in Florida. I have sailed the ocean with Ted Turner. I have swam the oceans in the Caribbean. And I have interviewed Gregg Popovich. Mid-game. Spurs down seven.

“If I’ve learned anything through all of this, it’s that each and every day is a canvas, waiting to be painted — an opportunity for love, for fun, for living, for learning. To those of you out there who are suffering from cancer, facing adversity, I want you to know that your will to live and to fight cancer can make all the difference in the world. The way you think influences the way you feel, and the way you feel determines how you act.”

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