Sports reporter Craig Sager accepted the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the 2016 ESPYs on Wednesday in recognition of his courageous battle against leukemia. Vice President Joe Biden, leader of the new Cancer Moonshot Initiative, presented Sager with the award at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
Biden, who lost his son Beau to cancer last year, introduced Sager by saying, “his conduct, he teaches us how to live with perseverance and passion, fearless, hopeful, together.”
Sager, in his traditional fashion, wore an outrageous cheetah flower-emblazoned suit jacket and glittering tie. He opened his remarks, which weren’t prepared beforehand, by supporting Biden’s initiative, then thanked each of his family members.
“My battle is your battle,” he told them as they looked on in the audience.
Sager shed tears after his ESPYs tribute video concluded.
Standing before a room of loved ones and peers, Sager emphatically explained how his cancer has made him not only a stronger person, but one who’s more determined to live his life with the most love and fun possible.
“Whatever I might’ve imagined a terminal illness would do to my spirit, it’s summoned quite the opposite. The greatest appreciation for life itself,” he said.
“So I will never give up. And I will never give in. I will continue to keep fighting, sucking the marrow out of life, as life sucks the marrow out of me. I will live my life full of love and full of fun. It’s the only way I know how.”
Sager, 65, learned in March that his leukemia was no longer in remission, and doctors gave him a prognosis of three to six months to live without treatment. Under his current treatment, however, Sager could live longer and beat his aggressive type of cancer.
As he’s pondered his mortality since his latest diagnosis, Sager delivered a simple, but inspiring perspective on something he’s more aware of than most.
“Time is something that can’t be bought. It can’t be wagered with God, and it is not an endless supply. Time is simply how you live your life.”
“If I missed a game, that meant I was losing the battle. I’m not going to let leukemia affect me,” he said during his ESPYs tribute video. Sager also mentioned that at one point in his treatment, doctors wanted to isolate him. He wouldn’t have that — Sager wanted to live his life as he always as.
“I said, ‘Doc, you put me in isolation, I’m doing to die.’”
In June, he finally worked his first NBA Finals game after Turner Sports and ESPN partnered to allow Sager to work ESPN’s broadcast.
“Sports are in my soul. They’ve guided my life,” said Sager.
Over his 44-year career, Sager gained a reputation as a fashionably flashy, enthusiastic, and sometimes offbeat sports reporter. His knowledgable, joyful and caring approach to his work has earned the respect of many within the NBA community — including surly San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. It’s now a common sight to see players interrupt Sager during live television interviews to show their love and support for him.
The NBA is undoubtedly better with Sager, and on Wednesday night, he reminded the ESPYs why everyone in sports is rooting for him to beat his cancer.