Longtime sideline reporter Craig Sager dies

TV reporter Craig Sager, who held a very public years long battle with leukemia, has died. He was 65.

Sager got his first taste on the sidelines as a mascot at Northwestern. A walk-on on the football and basketball teams, injury turned him to cheerleading.

He got his start in television as a weatherman in Tampa, Fla. Within a few years, the charismatic Sager would become an Atlanta fixture, first appearing on Hawks telecasts for TBS Superstation and later as a reporter during NBA broadcasts on the TNT network.

He would become known as much for his in-game interviews during TNT broadcasts as he was for his colorful, and often garish outfits.

His reporting resume included horse racing, college football games, the NFL, soccer's World Cup and the Masters Tournament at Augusta National. Sager covered various Olympics Games for Turner and NBC. He filed on-field reports from baseball's World Series, the NCAA Tournament and, in 2016, reported from his first NBA Finals on ESPN.

Credit: Jonathan Daniel

Credit: Jonathan Daniel

His unique wardrobe made him highly likable and the subject of criticism.

Former NBA commissioner David Stern once quipped, "I put in a dress code for the players, but I should have put one in for the broadcasters, too."

walk through Sager's color-coordinated closet at his home in Canton revealed a wide array of brightly outlandish outfits that were impeccably matched from tie to shoe.

He was the victim of jokes and deadpans from the players and coaches he covered. Kevin Garnett once compared him to a Christmas ornament and Charles Barkley referred to him as a pimp.

In 2014, Sager announced he had leukemia. He missed the entire 2014 season undergoing treatments. Upon his return, he gained a new following. Social media made him a star under the hashtag #SagerStrong.

"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," Sager said in May.

In July he received the Jimmy V Award, given to those who "overcome great obstacles through perseverance and determination." In his acceptance speech during the ESPYs, Sager vowed to "keep fighting."

The Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame announced it would include Sager in its 10th Class to be inducted Dec. 13 in New York.

In August, before he returned to Houston for a rare third bone marrow transplant, Sager told the AJC:

'I have run the bases with Hank Aaron after No. 715, thrown out the first pitch at Wrigley Field, graced the cover of 'Sports Illustrated,' and received the Jimmy V perseverance Award at the ESPYs. I have covered eight Olympiads, dozens of Super Bowls, 24 Masters, and NBA games too numerous to count.

"I continue to live life full of love and full of fun the only way I know how."

He is survived by his wife, Stacy; five children, Riley, Ryan, Kacy, Craig Jr. and Krista; and a legion of fans.