By Kacy Sager
If ever there was a match made in heaven, it was Craig Sager and the NBA.
You know that feeling you get when you’re watching someone and you can just tell they’re doing exactly what they were born to do? That realization that they’re one of the lucky ones…those special few whose presence alone can make any moment feel just right. The sense that this person is exactly where they are supposed to be, so maybe that means you’re right where the universe wants you to be, too.
That. That’s how I felt every single time I saw my dad work.
It was magic watching him expertly navigate the hallways of The Omni with his long legs and press pass, the rest of us clumsily trying to keep up. I looked on with pride as he graciously gave his time to every fan who wanted it and tried to play it cool in front of players who were just as excited to see him. I stayed up to watch him when he was on the road, marveling at the way he could interview these athletes I idolized with the same warmth and levity he used when he talked to me.
He made my heroes and the league itself accessible in those moments and it felt like I was part of it all just for having watched. But the most amazing part was (and will always be) knowing that he made countless others feel the exact same way.
I think people connected with him from their living rooms because, first and foremost, he was a fan at heart. His own career only ever meant anything to him because it put him in a position to witness greatness from others. And boy, did he…
He had this uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time, largely because he paid no mind to anyone who tried to stop him. He was there at home plate to interview Hank Aaron after his record-breaking 715th home run. He camped out in Seattle Slew’s stall the night before he won the Triple Crown. When we were told he would be working the 2016 Finals in the unlikely event Cleveland forced a Game 6, suddenly an improbable comeback felt inevitable.
And then there he was, in one of the most significant moments of both his life and LeBron’s, two legends overjoyed to be sharing it with each other. For all the attention he received during that interview (and so many others), he never stole the spotlight; he only made it brighter. In a career defined by his coverage of some of the biggest sporting events, his legacy became making those moments seem even bigger just by being there.
His life is woven into the history of so many sports, and yet most people only know him as an NBA reporter. He was so damn good in that role that the majority of his fans don’t even realize how impressive his career was outside of it, but can you blame them? It was always the sidelines of a basketball game where he shined the brightest.
This game is special. The NBA is special. There’s something so personal about it all. Maybe it’s the intimacy of games played in an arena, or the visibility of the players’ faces that allows us to see every emotion written across them. The smaller rosters that make it easier for fans to keep up with every member of their team. The unparalleled marketability of its superstars.
It’s the nature of the league for personalities to come through, and it provided the perfect setting for a man who was unabashedly himself every second of his life. So much about the NBA changed throughout the decades he spent on its sidelines, but he never had to.
So, on behalf of the Sager family, thank you. Thank you to the entire NBA community for allowing my father to thrive in the job he was born to do. Thank you for loving him and for laughing both with and at him. For being part of something that meant so much to all of us, it kept us connected even when he was on the other side of the country. For letting us know we’re still members of this giant, amazingly supportive family even now that he’s gone.
And thank you to everyone at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for this incredible honor. He truly believed he had the greatest job in the world, and your recognition of his passion is a beautiful reminder that his presence will be felt in the NBA for all the big moments still yet to come.