Craig Sager, who spent time in Kansas City and came to prominence the NBA sideline reporter for Turner Sports, died after a long battle with leukemia. There was no word on when or where he died. Sager was 65.
Sager, who was with KMBC (Channel 9) during 1978-81, fought a very public battle with the disease after he was diagnosed in 2014. He was known for his suits, which were often colorful and always unusual, as well as his work on the sidelines of NBA games.
In a statement, Turner Sports president David Levy said: “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.”
Sager first announced in April 2014 that he had been diagnosed with leukemia, and he missed the playoffs and much of the following season as he underwent two bone marrow transplants.
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After Sager’s diagnosis became public, the hashtag #SagerStrong was popular on social media as people rooted for Sager to beat the disease. After missing the 2014-15 season, Sager returned to cover games.
However, this past March, Sager said the leukemia was no longer in remission and that doctors told him the typical prognosis was three to six months to live.
Not long after the diagnosis, Sager covered his first NBA Finals. According to an Associated Press story, ESPN invited him to join its coverage and marked the occasion by wearing a blazer with a royal blue floral print. After Game 6, LeBron James playfully asked Sager: “How in the hell do you go 30-plus years without getting a Finals game?”
Sager, who grew up in Batavia, Ill, came to Kansas City from a job in Florida. While with Channel 9, Sager worked the 1980 World Series as a correspondent for CNN. The network hired Sager in March 1981 for its sports division.
Former Star sportswriter Randy Covitz chronicled Sager’s time in Kansas City.
Royals vice president of broadcasting and communications Mike Swanson, who was once Sager’s roommates, said Sager met his wife Lisa on the Central Missouri campus and proposed to her at a Royals game. They were married for nearly 22 years.
After Sager’s death was announced, a number of people, from all across sports, paid tribute to Sager: