While the TNT crew was offering outfit-based tributes to colleague Craig Sager, who's at Chesapeake Energy Arena to broadcast Game 4 of the Western Conference finals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night, ESPN was announcing its own very special nod to Sager's fortitude:
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— ESPYS (@ESPYS) May 25, 2016
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 25, 2016
Sager was diagnosed with leukemia in 2014, and has gone through multiple courses of treatment, including chemotherapy and stem cell transplants, to try to beat back the illness. After missing nearly a year, he was cleared to return to television in March of 2015, only to see the illness return, forcing him to once again step away from his duties.
After several more months of treatment, including a transplant of bone marrow donated by his son, Craig II, Sager came back for the NBA's 2015-16 Media Day in September, returned to work on Opening Night a month later, and had his first televised post-treatment tete-a-tete with Pop in December. Sager has continued to make monthly trips to Houston for treatment throughout the season, and was healthy enough to resume his responsibilities at the NBA's annual All-Star Weekend in Toronto. His status took a turn shortly thereafter, though, and Sager revealed in a March interview with HBO that his leukemia was no longer in remission.
Undaunted, he continued to work, juggling treatment through clinical trials, travel and broadcasting responsibilities in an effort that inspired many, including Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard. He continues to press on, working through TNT's postseason coverage with the support of his colleagues, his family and an NBA community that has opened its heart to him over the years.
“When I was diagnosed with cancer, like so many other people, my life changed forever,” Sager said in an ESPN statement released Tuesday. “Over the last two years, I’ve done everything in my power to live my life as normally as possible. But at times, you need support and I’m so thankful to everyone who has been there for me.”
More from ESPN:
The Jimmy V Perseverance Award was named after, and inspired by, the late Jimmy Valvano who became the award’s raison d’être at the 1993 ESPYS. While battling cancer, Valvano gave an emotional acceptance speech that included his famous words “Don’t Give Up . . . Don’t Ever Give Up!” Valvano passed away less than two months later, but his words were never forgotten. The Jimmy V Award is given to a deserving member of the sporting world who has overcome great obstacles through perseverance and determination. In 2007, Women’s College basketball coach Kay Yow became the very first recipient of the Jimmy V Award. Past recipients include Eric LeGrand, Anthony Robles, George Karl, Dick and Rick Hoyt, Stuart Scott, and Devon and Leah Still.
"It just shows it's not about me; it's about something bigger than me," Sager told The Associated Press on Tuesday, one day after he went to an Oklahoma City hospital to undergo blood transfusions he needs as part of his ongoing leukemia treatment. ''What I represent is somebody who, like Jimmy V said, 'Don't give up. Don't ever give up.' I refuse to give up. I refuse to give in."
Sager will receive the award at the 2016 ESPYs on July 13.
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