ESPN-Turner Deal Allows Cancer-Stricken Craig Sager to Work First NBA Finals

AP Photo
The Associated Press

Turner and ESPN teamed up to give Craig Sager an early 65th birthday present. The cable behemoth agreed to allow leukemia-stricken sideline reporter to work his first NBA Finals game.

The colorful Sager splits duties with the so-serious Doris Burke on ABC during Thursday’s Game Six contest between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. Sager began his interviews at NBA games 17 years ago. But because Turner perennially loses out on the Finals to bigger networks the iconic sportscaster perennially experiences the Finals from the other side of the screen.

“I’d like to thank Turner and ESPN for approaching me with this tremendous opportunity to be part of The Finals broadcast team,” Sager explained in a statement. “I’ve been watching the series very closely and, while I do not want to distract in any way from the event itself, I look forward to being in the building for what will be an incredibly exciting Game 6.  The NBA community is a very special one and this is a great honor.”

Sager joined CNN in 1982, jumping back-and-forth within the family of Turner networks over the last 34 years. He has covered Olympiads, World Series, and NCAA Basketball Championships. But his most memorable moment occurred long before all that. Lurking near third base with microphone in hand, Sager was the first person to speak to Hank Aaron after he eclipsed Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1974.

Sager’s cancer returned earlier this year with a grim three-to-six month prognosis for time left if not treated. He continues to try various methods to combat the disease. Though his genial self in front of the camera, Sager has appeared gaunt and weak at times.