Craig Sager Sr. is planning a return to the NBA sidelines on Thursday night after months of cancer treatment.
Nearly a year ago, in April, Sager was diagnosed with leukemia, and was forced to undergo chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant.
But Sager, thanks in large part to the support of wife Stacy, son Craig Sager Jr., and other family and friends, has recovered enough to report on the Chicago Bulls-Oklahoma City Thunder game on March 5.
Sager is known for his quirky sense of style as well as his upbeat demeanor while reporting on the league, earning accolades from the likes of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. However, longtime fans may be disappointed to learn that Sager says he had to get a new suit coat made because the classic orange one is now too big.
“I lost so much weight that it doesn’t fit anymore,” Sager told Sports Illustrated, laughing.
“Also, wearing an orange-and-white-striped linen coat in Chicago during the first week of March when the temperature is five degrees might not cut it. Those ostrich shoes also don’t fit well because throughout the chemo I developed neuropathy, so my feet are a little swollen. So I went out and had another coat made.”
Sager’s comeback outfit is a red, black, and gray wool sport coat that will undoubtedly draw a lot of attention. He will be wearing Nike sneakers custom-made to match the coat.
Sager has recovered enough to pick up a full schedule in the coming months, including a number of NBA games and March Madness games. The first weekend of the college basketball tournament, Sager will report on four games for CBS.
The 63-year-old says it will be interesting to be back in action. “The fact that I haven’t been allowed in an arena for 11 months … it’s going to be a different experience,” Sager told the Chicago Tribune.
He acknowledged that throughout the ordeal, a contingent of NBA coaches, players, and former players helped boost his spirits by sending well-wishes, including telephone calls. Popovich and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau are among those who sent over cards and notes and made calls.
“When you’re doing this job, sometimes you feel like you’re annoying (the coaches),” Sager said. “They’d rather not have you around. Who knows, maybe it’s the clothes? But when you see how much they actually missed you, it’s really therapeutic. It makes you feel good.”
Sager also received support from his wife Stacy, who is a former Bulls dancer. Craig proposed to Stacy at the 2000 World Series. The couple has two children, Riley and Ryan, who also helped in the recovery, as did Craig’s three children from a previous marriage. The family lives in Georgia.
“I asked enough questions to the point where I probably drove the physicians crazy,” Stacy told NBA.com. “I had to do everything I could. I wanted to know why things were done: Why do you have him on this antibiotic? Just little things like that. I had to, because he is my life.”
Stacy often slept in the sofa outside of her husband’s hospital room, while visitors included TNT’s Inside the NBA crew.