Tag: Craig Sager

Nebraska v Baylor

Craig Sager makes long-awaited return to TNT after 11-month battle with leukemia


CHICAGO—Craig Sager would not have picked any other city to make his long-awaited return. Besides his iconic, unmistakeable suits, the beloved TNT sideline reporter is most known for his in-game battles with Gregg Popovich, but rather than waiting for a Spurs game, he opted to work his first live game in 11 months at home in Chicago.

Sager will be on the sidelines Thursday night when the Bulls take on the Thunder at the United Center, making his triumphant return after an 11-month battle with leukemia that took him out of last year’s playoffs and all of this season.

And to commemorate the occasion, his suit will be red and black.

“I will come tonight, and you may actually think I’m Benny the Bull,” Sager said at morning shootaround. “I have a lot of love for my Chicago Bulls. Normally, you don’t show a lot of favoritism for one or the other team, but since Chicago means so much to me and coming back here, I said I have to show some love to the Bulls and to Chicago. I don’t think I’ll get booed by too many people for what I’m wearing here tonight.”

It’s been a long, hard battle for Sager, who underwent strenuous treatments for almost a year to get to this day. At the United Center Thursday morning, he looked a little thin, but otherwise in great spirits.

“I’m very grateful,” Sager said. “I got up today and it was like the first day of school. You’re a little nervous. I’ve done it before but everything’s a little different. It’s a long 11 months, believe me. But I was very fortunate I had some doctors I believed in, had some good care. I’m back. A little bit lighter, I don’t know if you can see it on TV but I lost close to 50 pounds, got some of it back, but I had to get some new clothes because all those great things I had before don’t fit anymore.”

Having to buy some new clothes is a minor concern, considering everything he’s been through. After coming closer to death than most people ever live to look back on, Sager credits his doctors and his ever-positive mindset for helping him beat the disease.

“I never had a bad day mentally,” he said. “I really didn’t. I was very optimistic, positive, believed in my doctors. Sure, some days physically were worse than others, but I always felt that if I did what they said to do, I’d be alright. It took longer than I thought, because I had a very tough infection and then I came down with pneumonia, and when you compound pneumonia with leukemia, people start talking mortality rates and all. I didn’t pay any attention to it. Maybe I was naive, but I really didn’t think about the negative things. I just said, ‘I want to get back.’

“I really thought I’d get back for baseball post-season, but that was far-fetched. I thought for sure sure I’d be back by [NBA season-opening] ring ceremony, and then I thought I’d be back by Christmas, or for All-Star. But it wasn’t until Sunday that I took my final medication to keep my body from rejecting the transplant. Then I had to get the OK from the doctors from head to chest to feet, and they all cleared me with no restrictions. It all happened very quickly here at the end, but they said, “you’re ready to go, and be careful.” They still want me to wear a mask on the plane so I don’t make the other people sick, but I guess I’m alright.”

Since Sager’s diagnosis at the beginning of the 2014 playoffs, the tributes and well-wishes have poured out from all corners of the NBA world. The Inside the NBA crew wore extra-colorful blazers in tribute. Sager’s son conducted a sideline interview with Popovich during Game 1 of the Spurs’ series against the Mavericks, and the notoriously curmudgeonly Popovich even showed his softer side.

Now, the next time the Spurs play on TNT, the real thing will be there. Sager is thankful that, like the rest of the public, his bosses never had a doubt that he’d be back. Turner even took the leap of faith to renew his contract well before he was out of the hospital.

“Turner was very supportive,” Sager said. “They said ‘No matter how long it takes, your job is there when you get back.’ Which is very good, because my contract expired in December, so they had to renew me even though I’m sitting there in a hospital bed, getting my last rights for a while, but they still had faith and wanted me back. This is what I do.”

There will be no time to ease back into the workload, with the NCAA Tournament and the NBA playoffs both coming up in the next two months. And that’s just how Sager likes it.

“They asked me if I wanted to ease back into it,” Sager said. “I said, ‘No. My gosh, no.’ If I’m ready to go, I want to go back full-blast. So I’ll leave from here, go to New York, then March Madness in conjunction with Turner and CBS, then go right into the playoffs.”

He isn’t out of the woods yet, but the prognosis is a good one, and Sager—and his suits—will be back on our screens for the foreseeable future.

“Hopefully my body will stay healthy,” Sager said. “I’m totally in remission, they don’t think you’re cured for three years, but right now my vital signs are very good. Everyone’s cleared me, they all think I’m healthy, I look a little scrawny I guess, but I feel good, I feel great, I don’t think I’ll have any problems.”

Gregg Popovich interview with Craig Sager Jr. actually a get-well wish (VIDEO)

popovich sager1

Craig Sager is TNT’s tenured sideline reporter, a man well-respected in his profession who is out of action at the moment due to being diagnosed with acute leukemia just before the playoffs began.

Sager’s professional nemesis has historically been Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, who often used those in-game interview opportunities to make fun of Sager’s wardrobe, when he wasn’t busy being difficult in providing curt answers to largely innocuous questions.

But Popovich is a genuinely great guy below the occasionally rough exterior, and showed it to a national audience during the Spurs’ Game 1 win over the Mavericks. Once the third quarter was finished, Popovich was kind and responsive to Craig Sager Jr., who filled in for his father on live television.

“You did a great job, but I’d rather have your dad standing here,” Popovich said once the interview was finished. He then looked into the camera and delivered the following heartfelt message.

“Craig, we miss you. You’ve been an important part of all of this for a long time, doing a great job. We want your fanny back on the court, and I promise I’ll be nice. Get back here. Good luck.”

The best part of all of this is that it wasn’t supposed to go down this way. The interview was supposed to be pre-taped, but Popovich insisted on doing it live.

Craig Sager has acute leukemia

Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat - Game Five

UPDATE 4-19-2014: Craig Sager released this statement through Turner Sports:

“My favorite time of year – city to city, round by round, 40 games in 40 nights.  A dramatic turn has matched me with acute myeloid leukemia.  From the sidelines to being sidelined, 40 veins and 40 electrolytes.  Too bad, I had some probing questions for Pop.”

4-17-2014: We may not see TNT’s brightly dressed Craig Sager on the NBA sidelines these playoffs, but we will be thinking of him.

Sager’s son tweeted this out Thursday (via Deadspin).

That timeline likely would mean little or no Sager on TNT’s NBA playoff broadcasts the next month.

Craig Sager II said that they just found out about the leukemia after being told his father was clear, and it was a gut check for the family. There was an outpouring of support for Sager and his family on twitter.

Our thoughts are with Sager and his family. I hope to be blinding by his suits on my television again soon.

Popovich’s wife doesn’t like how he treats courtside reporters

Gregg Popovich

It’s one of my favorite parts of the Spurs nationally televised games — some poor sideline reporter like Craig Sager has to try and interview Gregg Popovich between quarters. And Popovich wants nothing to do with it. He is condescending and annoyed.

Journalists in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, but I do love watching those interviews. I’m not alone, if you judge by twitter reactions. A lot of people look forward to the Popovich interviews.

But not his wife.

Popovich was on 790 the Ticket in Miami with Dan LeBatard and talked about hearing from his wife after those interviews (via Sports Radio Interviews).

“I know. I’m a jerk. I’m going to go ahead and admit it publically to the whole world. Tell me what to do. What should I do?… I don’t know how to answer so sue me for being stupid and not having the answers to the questions. (Host: Keep doing it, it’s entertaining.) It entertains everybody but my wife. When I get home and she says ‘geez why are you so mean? You’re a jerk, people hate you.’ I go I’m sorry honey, I have to do better next time.”

“And there’s no exaggeration. Did you see that guy honey? Did you see him? All you have to do is see him and you know why I answered the way I did. (She says) ‘That’s no excuse, you’re a grown man. Show some maturity.’ I said ‘I can’t, I can’t do it.”

We all answer to someone. Even Gregg Popovich.

But he still should keep doing it.

Video: Kevin Garnett says Celtics won “a bar fight”

Orlando Magic's Howard guards Boston Celtics' Garnett along with Magic's teammate Anderson during their NBA basketball game in Boston

Kevin Garnett was a little amped after the Celtics came from 27 points down to beat the Orlando Magic. Really amped. Which made for a great interview on TNT where he asks Craig Sager if he has ever been in a bar fight, then realizing the impossibility of that tells him to ask Charles Barkley what it is like.

Plus, the required compliment of Sager’s suit.

KG had a monster game, looking like himself of five years ago as he defended Dwight Howard for stretches. If Boston coming back to form means more of these interviews, everybody wins.