Los Angeles (AFP) – Craig Sager, the popular broadcaster whose NBA sideline reports were an integral part of the game for a legion of basketball fans, has died at the age of 65, Turner Sports network said Thursday.
Sager had waged a public battle with cancer over the past two years after he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2014.
The cancer went into remission after a bone marrow transplant but returned in March 2015.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced that teams will be observing a moment of silence in Sager’s memory prior to games.
“I — along with the entire NBA family — am deeply saddened by the passing of Craig Sager,” Silver said in a statement. “Craig was as vital to the NBA as the players and coaches.”
Sager, with his penchant for loudly patterned jackets and pointed questions, was instantly recognizable as he roamed the sidelines for Turner’s NBA broadcasts on its TNT network for more than 20 years — crossing swords with notoriously taciturn San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and others.
“Craig chronicled some of the most memorable moments in league history and was a ubiquitous presence with his splashy suits and equally colorful personality,” Silver said, praising Sager’s “insightful reporting”.
Sager finally worked his first NBA Finals game last June, after TNT’s partnership with ESPN brought him to the league’s championship series.
In one on-court interview, Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James voiced astonishment that Sager had never worked a championship series game before.
“The NBA family lost a legend, who changed the way sideline reporters did their job,” former Los Angeles Lakers great Magic Johnson tweeted as tributes to Sager poured out on social media.
“Craig Sager brought so much enthusiasm to the NBA game,” tweeted former Bulls great Scottie Pippen. “But his fight to the end is what really impressed me. RIP to an inspiring man.”