Popular sideline reporter Craig Sager received the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the “ESPY Awards” on Wednesday in Los Angeles.
Sager, 65, took the stage at the Microsoft Theater to accept the award following a tribute video that moved him to tears in the audience. Wearing a vibrant sportcoat, the veteran NBA reporter delivered an emotional speech thanking those who have supported him during his fight against cancer, saying his fight has been their fight.
“Jimmy V’s inspirational message is on my phone, [a] constant source of encouragement and inspiration,” Sager said. “It’s always at my bedside at the hospital and I can read it anytime I want.”
The award was presented by Vice President Joe Biden, whose son Beau died in 2010 of brain cancer. Sager thanked the vice president for his efforts combating cancer, saying he was “confident, in you, that one day soon we will wipe out cancer.”
Sager had leukemia diagnosed in April 2014. He returned to reporting for “NBA on TNT” after an 11-month absence. The cancer returned shortly after, but Sager was again able to fight it in time for the start of the 2015-16 season. In March, Sager revealed that his cancer was no longer in remission and doctors had given him three to six months to live.
“You try to live a lifetime of moments in three weeks, but then you say, ‘The hell with three weeks!’ ” Sager said of his reaction to hearing his diagnosis, adding: “Time is something that cannot be bought, it cannot be wagered with God, and it is not in endless supply. Time is simply how you live your life.”
Sager spoke fondly of his life’s work, which he said never felt like work.
“Sports is who I am in my soul. … I have had the good fortune to witness all of your amazing feats. And I am confident that I will continue to watch those amazing feats,” Sager said.
Balancing poignant moments with jokes throughout, including his own “feats” like interviewing Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich while his team trailed, Sager vowed to continue his fight, “sucking the marrow out of life as life sucks the marrow out of me.”
“To everybody out there, we are making progress — incredible progress,” Sager said “… We are going to find a cure for cancer. But we need your help.”
Sager has worked for Turner Sports for 34 years, including 17 with on TNT’s NBA coverage team. In June, he made his first and only appearance covering the NBA Finals when he joined the ESPN telecast of Game 6.
The Jimmy V award is named for the late North Carolina State basketball coach Jim Valvano who spoke eloquently about having cancer in his “Don’t give up … don’t ever give up” speech.