It’s amazing that after 17 seasons covering the NBA, Thursday night’s Game 6 was Craig Sager’s first time working the Finals.
Sager joined the ESPN/ABC broadcast team, working the sidelines along with Doris Burke while rocking another one of his iconic suits. In 2014, Sager was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. For the past couple years, he’s gone through multiple treatments including chemotherapy, stem cell transplants and bone marrow transplants.
After a few returns, covering marquee games and events for Turner Sports, Sager revealed in an interview with HBO that his leukemia was no longer in remission. Recognizing his juggling of work, travel and treatment, ESPN will present Sager with the Jimmy V Perseverance award in July. It’s even cooler that they and Turner could team up to give him his first NBA Finals assignment
On the court, LeBron James was the star. He recorded 41 points for the second straight game and has willed the Cavaliers back from a 3-1 deficit to Game 7 on Sunday. Cleveland could be the first team to win a Finals after being down that much, and it would be even more impressive to do so against the 73-win Golden State Warriors. Off the court though, literally, it was Sager getting standing ovations from the Cleveland crowd.
Before the game, Sager spent time FaceTiming with University of Pittsburgh running back and Hodgkins lymphoma survivor James Connor. A mentor of Connor’s was shooting the game for WJET and connected the two on the phone.
After the game, James shared a really special moment with Sager.
“First of all, let me ask you a question: How in the hell did you go 30-plus years without getting a Finals game? That don’t make no sense. But I’m happy to see you, man. Much love and respect, and I’m happy we were able to win this in front of these fans. We really appreciate you.”
Leave it to Richard Jefferson to add some more humor to it. Game 7 tips off at 7 PM Sunday on ABC.