This past week, the late great legendary NBA sideline reporter, Craig Sager, sadly passed away after a long hard fought battle with cancer. This was a very special man, who literally and figuratively lit up NBA sidelines for years with his magnetic personality and outlandish, bright, neon-colored suits, which would eventually become synonymous with his name. His job was not an easy one, but as far as I’m concerned, there was no one better. When coaches and players would approach him, angrily at times, to give their mandatory halftime interviews, Craig had the uncanny ability of being able to bring levity to those tense-filled situations. I’m honored to say that in 2011, I had the incredible opportunity to meet Craig Sager at The Westin Hotel in Manhattan, the night of the NBA Draft. Now. . . just simply the occurrence of meeting Craig Sager is certainly an impressive story in itself. However, the unique way in which my family and I were able to meet him, makes the story all the more interesting, as the experience ended up hitting very close to home.
The night of the 2011 NBA Draft, my family and I were hanging out in the lobby of the Westin Hotel in midtown Manhattan, hobnobbing with the Who’s Who of the National Basketball Association. As we hung around the fancy lobby, enjoying the surreal experience of preparing for Jimmer to be drafted into the world’s most prominent basketball league, suddenly we saw a very familiar face approaching us. To our pleasant surprise, it was the world renowned sports reporter, Craig Sager. He introduced himself, telling us that he was a big fan of Jimmer, and that he had been looking forward to meeting him. We were thrilled to meet him as well, as we had always thoroughly enjoyed Craig and the entertaining ways in which he conducted his infamous sideline interviews. Then after a couple minutes of getting to know him a little bit, he hit us with a shocker, revealing to us that one of his best friends was actually from Glens Falls, NY – our hometown. We obviously thought that that was pretty cool, and it opened up the conversation to some nostalgia as we discussed his experiences with our small town, such as the lifechanging moment when he had the privilege of enjoying a Dirty John’s hotdog (anyone from the Glens Falls area knows what that’s all about). Then what Craig Sager did next, would surely become the favorite of my Jimmer draft night stories. He told us that he had a surprise for us, and that if we could wait right where we were for a moment, he would be right back with the surprise. Well, of course the opportunity to receive a surprise from Craig Sager was reason enough for us to stay put. So we anxiously waited for Craig to return with this mysterious surprise. After waiting for a while, it got to the point where Jimmer was becoming crunched for time, as he had a very strict schedule to keep. Jimmer told us that he was gonna have to leave, but that we should tell Craig it was great meeting him and he was sorry he couldn’t stick around for the surprise. Then right as Jimmer was about to take off, suddenly we hear this loud chant coming from down the hallway… JIM-MER! JIM-MER! JIM-MER! Stunned by the unusual turn of events, all eyes in the lobby were immediately fixated on the long string of red-shirted Jimmer fans, chanting his name as they made their way towards him. But the best thing about this forever memorable moment, was when we realized who it was that was leading this spirited charge. As we looked on collectively with the rest of the crowded lobby, we suddenly came to the realization that it was Craig Sager himself, chanting Jimmer’s name as he sported a bright red Glens Falls Nation T-shirt. He had met up with his good friend and the large Glens Falls contingency to show Jimmer support on his big day.
What a phenomenal memory Craig Sager left us with on that special night. He was such a kind-hearted man, and to me, his amazing display of support for my little brother, who he had never met before, spoke volumes about his character. With this very kind act, he surely forever etched a special place in my heart. He was an incredible man, and he will definitely be greatly missed. So I just wanted to take this time to share this wonderful memory that Craig left me and my family with, and also offer my sincere condolences to the Sager family. Rest in peace Craig, we all love ya. Thank you so much for the memories.