Well, this is awesome: ESPN announced Wednesday morning that Craig Sager, legendary sideline reporter for Turner Sports' NBA coverage and soon-to-be recipient of the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the 2016 ESPYs, will join the ABC/ESPN broadcast crew for Thursday's Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers.
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Sager will share sideline reporting duties with Doris Burke to round out Thursday’s team, which includes play-by-play commentator Mike Breen and analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson.
This unique, one-time opportunity marks the first time Sager has worked an NBA Finals broadcast in his legendary career.
“I’d like to thank Turner and ESPN for approaching me with this tremendous opportunity to be part of The Finals broadcast team,” said Sager. “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 was diagnosed with acute myeloid 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 longtime friend/foil San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich 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, appearing as part of TNT's postseason coverage through the Western Conference finals with the support of his colleagues, his family and an NBA community that has opened its heart to him over the years.
Now, thanks to a smart bit of across-the-dial collaboration between league partners ESPN and Turner, Sager — who has covered the NBA on TNT for 17 seasons, but has never worked a Finals game — will get that long-awaited chance.
“Craig is an iconic member of the NBA family who indelibly makes his mark on each and every broadcast," said ESPN executive vice president of production and programming John Wildhack in a statement. "I know our entire team is delighted to work with Craig for Game 6. We all agree his professional reputation is second-to-none, though it’s his personal reputation – that of class, selflessness and respect – which makes this even more special for our team. We hope that this will be a special night for Craig and for NBA fans."
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