The procedure Craig Sager underwent Wednesday was rare: a third bone-marrow transplant. But there were some very familiar elements in place, such as a eye-catching garment worn by the TNT basketball reporter and his smile.
Sager’s son, Craig Jr., had been the donor for his first two bone marrow transplants, one in each of the past two years, following a 2014 diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia. However, Sager Jr. said on Twitter Tuesday, “After two, I’d be donating to myself and it wouldn’t hold up long.”
This time, the popular sideline reporter had an anonymous benefactor, one the Associated Press described as a 20-year-old who “was considered a perfect match.” Shortly after the procedure began, Sager said, “Okay, third time’s the charm.”
The transplant, which began at mid-day, was reportedly expected to take around 10 hours, but Sager appeared determined to maintain the good cheer familiar to TNT viewers and those who have followed his fight against cancer. From the AP report:
Sager was in good spirits on Wednesday morning as the process began. He playfully rolled his eyes at his wife, Stacy, when she chided him for not smiling for a photo where he lifted his shirt to show where the fluid was entering his body in a tube above his left pectoral muscle.
“I’m supposed to be smiling for this?” he asked with a laugh. “Oh yay!”
The doctor in charge of Sager’s stem cell transplantation told the news service that “less than one percent of the total number of transplants” are performed as the third procedure for a given patient. “It’s very rare,” he said.
Sager was forced to miss an opportunity to cover basketball at the Rio Olympics for NBC, as doctors advised him to get chemotherapy treatments in preparation for Wednesday’s procedure. A recent high point came last month, when he received the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the ESPYs.
A fixture on TNT’s telecasts of NBA action for 20 years, Sager is known for wearing loud outfits while establishing friendly rapports with players. He has expressed hope that he will back to conducting sideline interviews this fall.