Thursday, December 15, 2016

Craig Sager: 1951-2016

Craig Sager passed away this afternoon after a 2½-year battle with leukemia and a four-decade career on America's sidelines. He was 65.

The Batavia, Illinois, native graduated from Northwestern University in 1973 and worked in Sarasota, Florida and Kansas City before joining CNN in 1981. Moving between the Turner networks, he covered 84 Major League Baseball games and a handful of NFL games on national television, to say nothing of golf, tennis, the 1990 World Cup and the Olympics. But by far his most visible work came on the NBA.

I have record of Sager working 746 NBA telecasts. That sideline-reporter data on cable doesn't begin until March of 1995, Turner Sports' 11th year with NBA rights: it seems likely that the actual total is well north of 1,000. (Marv Albert, the most experienced NBA announcer for whom I have complete data, works "only" his 976th game at 10:30 p.m. Eastern time tonight.)

Edit: Jeff Haggar of Classic TV Sports, who is right about these things most of the time, believes that Turner didn't start using sideline reporters until that point in 1995. Even if that's true, I'm also missing sideline reporters from the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons, which would probably give Sager another 60 or 70 games.

But even if you split that difference and give him 64 games to reach 810, he'd trail only Albert and Hubie Brown.

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