One week after the airing of an interview in which he revealed that his acute myeloid lymphoma is no longer in remission, Craig Sager was back at work, rocking a typically eye-catching outfit and working the sidelines for TNT's broadcast of the Golden State Warriors' home win over the Washington Wizards. On most nights, the Warriors' pursuit of the all-time single-season record for wins would stand out as the primary focus of everyone in the arena and watching at home. On Tuesday, though, even those involved in the game couldn't help but prioritize their love of and support for the 64-year-old broadcaster who simply refuses to be defined by what ails him.
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His first on-screen appearance was briefly interrupted by the well-wishes of Warriors center Festus Ezeli:
His between-quarters interview with Wizards head coach Randy Wittman had absolutely nothing to do with in-game strategy, as Wittman decided instead to share how much he cares for and appreciates a man he's known for more than three decades:
Sager later chatted with TNT colleague Kenny Smith, who actually did answer his questions, but also spoke glowingly of how inspiring he finds Sager's determination to continue fighting a disease that, in some cases, limits those who suffer from it to a life expectancy of mere months:
After the Warriors finished off their win, Sager asked Golden State superstar Stephen Curry whether he felt fatigued by the pressure of pushing for both 73 wins and back-to-back championships, and could use a rest before the postseason starts. The NBA's reigning Most Valuable Player responded by saying that if Sager can keep pushing, he and his Warriors teammates have no excuse not to do the same:
We're sure Sager appreciates all the tributes, but he wasn't at Oracle for accolades. He was there because, well, where else should he be? From Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe:
“It’s to the point where I’m needing it, like platelets like twice a week, which is obviously not good. But it’s keeping me going,” he said before Tuesday’s game. “I have no choice, so I do it twice a week if I’m in Atlanta, and now because I’m going to Houston it’s much easier because I’m in Houston eight days a month doing chemo.”
Sager said doctors have told him that his blood condition has reached a point where even a cut could be life-threatening. He has convinced his Houston-based doctors that he needs to work, and they have allowed him to travel as long as he continues his treatment.
“I tell [the doctors] no, I gotta go, I’d go crazy if I just sat around,” he said. “I gotta be myself and do what I have to do. It keeps me going. It keeps me motivated. It’s therapeutic. It’s a good thing for not only me but the whole family and anybody that’s supporting me and trying to give me prayers and thoughts and on my side to see me out there working and doing the best I can.”
As he keeps working, he's struck by the degree to which so many people — on social media, in person, and all over the world — continue to open their heart for the ever-present question-asker with the loud suits. From Janie McCauley of The Associated Press:
"It's obviously been very surprising and overwhelming the support I've gotten," Sager said. "So many times when you're doing a job you feel like you're nuisance sometimes to people and you're intruding on their space and you're asking questions maybe they don't want to deal with at the time and it's not as, 'Hey, welcome, here's Craig.' Whereas now it's kind of been different. I've always been one I've always liked to talk to people in the stands. I understand when people come up to me and say somebody in their family has cancer, 'We appreciate what you're doing, we appreciate your fight, don't give up, we love your attitude.' That's just me. I've never had one day where I said, 'Why me?' and I've never had one day where I laid in my bed and thought about what reality and the worst things are and was down and started crying in my bed. That's never happened."
And, he insists, it's not going to happen.
“I think my demise has been prematurely reported. That’s what I think," he said, according to Washburn. "I think I’m going take this and make medical history and I really believe that.”
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