It was an emotional night on Inside the NBA as colleagues remembered the late, great Craig Sager, who died Thursday after a long battle with Leukemia.
Sager, who died at 65, had battled cancer for more than two years. He was first diagnosed with leukemia in 2014. He went into remission after a bone marrow transplant, but the the disease ultimately returned in March.
The TNT broadcast cold-opened with a an extended video tribute to Sager voiced by host Ernie Johnson, who was unavailable in-studio on Thursday. Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith were in their usual spots, and also shared their memories and thoughts. O’Neal, in particular, was emotional.
TNT’s video tribute, and Barkley, O’Neal and Smith’s comments, are below.
Sager, an iconic reporter, was beloved across the NBA by players, fans and colleagues alike. Known for his affable personality, constant professionalism and vibrant wardrobe, Sager was a fixture on the sidelines and on TNT’s broadcasts. Players, teams and other figures around the league were outspoken as they remembered him on social media.
The Bucks, who opened TNT’s Thursday night slate of games against the Bulls in Milwaukee, came out clad in T-shirts in Sager’s honor.
The tributes continued, as Warriors coach Steve Kerr led a “moment of joy” in Sager’s honor before the second game of the night, between Golden State and the Knicks. Kerr previously worked alongside Sager at TNT.
Turner president David Levy also honored Sager in a statement.
“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. 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,” Levy said in a statement. “While he will be remembered fondly for his colorful attire and the TNT sideline interview he conducted with NBA coaches and layers, 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.”
SI's Lee Jenkins wrote about Sager in a cover story earlier this year in the May 2, 2016 issue of Sports Illustrated. You can read Jenkins's full story on Sager's defiantly optimistic battle with cancer on The Crossover.
- Jeremy Woo