One of the biggest stories surrounding the NBA playoffs this year has little to do with the players and teams themselves. While there have been some exciting games and odd occurrences, the story circulating throughout the league now is that of a sideline reporter, TNT reporter Craig Sager.
Craig Sager, who has been a fixture along the sidelines throughout the past decade, has just been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and is scheduled to miss the next three to four weeks of the playoffs.
While his actual reporting has always been nice, Sager is best known for his eclectic fashion. He boasts a large collection of loud, colorful suits, which he wears to each and every game that he reports. Most of the time, Sager’s suits speak louder than his reporting.
Players and coaches have constantly attempted to comment on and tease him about his unusual (some would even say ugly) style, to the point where his reporting becomes somewhat of a playful banter. There is even a Tumblr devoted to Craig’s unique fashion sense, consisting of a game-by-game update of his clothing choices, ranging from vibrant reds and whimsical paisleys. A few years ago, Kevin Garnett told Sager to burn every part of his suit, all the way from his pink blazer to his matching cherry red shoes and socks.
When the average viewer sees Craig on TV, they tend to make judgments about his suit and the nature of his interviews. Yet what many people fail to realize is that Sager has been at this for quite a long time. His suits are a staple of any in-game interview, and if you pay attention, it’s not easy to miss him. In an interview with Sports Illustrated in 2012, Sager described how his interesting fashion sense developed. He said, “I grew up in Batavia, Illinois, a small town out in the corn fields, west of Chicago. It was boring. For our senior picture, they said, ‘black or navy blazer.’ And I thought, Why do I want to look like everybody else? I was a big fan of The Monkees, and I had this electric blue nehru jacket, like one Micky would wear. So I wore that and showed up and they said, ‘We told you: a blue or black sportcoat.’ I argued that it was actually blue, created a little controversy. But, now, you look at the yearbook and everyone looks exactly the same. Except for me.”
Craig’s clothes have always helped him to stand out. While in Florida filming a resume tape, he realized he had nothing to wear. Naturally, he went over to the nearest Goodwill store and found a blue, yellow and white jacket. While his tape was successful, the people at the television studio explained that he couldn’t wear clothes like that because the cameras couldn’t adjust.
Neither could Sager. To this day, he puts extensive time and research into what he will wear each night, analyzing which city he will be traveling to and whether his suit will fit the color scheme of the home team’s arena. Sager takes his fashion extremely seriously, often displaying his extensive knowledge of brands and designers whilst defending his choice in attire.
Perhaps Sager’s greatest “nemesis” on the court is Spurs Head Coach Greg Popovich. Popovich rarely (if ever) answers Sager’s questions seriously and often provides snarky comments until Craig’s time is up. This has been done to the point that fans look forward to and document their meetings. Yet Pops, along with the entirety of the NBA and its TV partnerships, know that Sager is a great guy.
Upon the announcement of his leukemia, players, fans, organizations and various presences around the NBA have expressed their sentiments for Craig. The TNT crew picked out their wackiest suits and donned them in honor of Craig the other night. Every coach interviewed during the playoffs on April 20th wished Craig good luck as well. Tributes have been pouring in across the league in all shapes and sizes. One of the most notable was a heartfelt message from Popovich. During game one of the Spurs Mavs series, Craig Sager’s son came out and interviewed Pops. Sager’s son asked simple, straightforward questions and Popovich answered seriously. The first part of the exchange was brief, yet Popovich then addressed Craig through the camera, exclaiming, “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.”
Sager, wearing a Captain America hospital gown and lemon-colored socks, was touched by the exchange and the gesture. His reporting and presence have become a part of the NBA. He is a character, but a warm, jovial one at that. Sager is always smiling, constantly takes snarky (sometimes cruel) jokes at his expense in stride, and is as good a reporter as anyone in the league. Sager is a special part of the NBA. He, his suits and his reporting will be sorely missed. Get well soon Craig!