Craig Sager Discusses Cancer Treatment, Support He's Received and More

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMarch 30, 2016

Craig Sager, acknowledges the crowd during a timeout of a game between the Chicago Bulls and the Oklahoma City Thunder, Thursday, March 5, 2015 in Chicago. Craig Sager returned to his familiar spot on the NBA sideline Thursday after being treated for leukemia.  (AP Photo/David Banks)
David Banks/Associated Press

Turner Sports broadcaster Craig Sager continues to work on the NBA sidelines, even though his leukemia is no longer in remission and he has a blood clot behind his right ear that impacts his hearing, per Janie McCauley of the Associated Press.

Sager recently talked about his health, the treatment he is receiving and the overall support he has seen during this difficult time. McCauley noted Sager drew a parallel between his ear situation and swimmer’s ear that won’t go away, although his condition "could cause him to bleed to death" depending on his blood levels.

Still, Sager focused on the overwhelming support he has received from others, per McCauley:

It's obviously been very surprising and overwhelming the support I've gotten. So many times when you're doing a job you feel like you're nuisance sometimes to people and you're intruding on their space and you're asking questions maybe they don't want to deal with at the time and it's not as, 'Hey, welcome, here's Craig.' Whereas now it's kind of been different.

I've always been one I've always liked to talk to people in the stands. I understand when people come up to me and say somebody in their family has cancer, 'We appreciate what you're doing, we appreciate your fight, don't give up, we love your attitude.' That's just me.

I've never had one day where I said, 'Why me?' and I've never had one day where I laid in my bed and thought about what reality and the worst things are and was down and started crying in my bed. That's never happened.

The positivity is admirable, especially since he has to undergo blood work twice a week and consistent transfusions, per McCauley. Sager made sure to point out his “demise has been prematurely reported,” because he is going to overcome his ailments and “make medical history,” per McCauley.

Sager went to the hospital on Monday and said the platelets and blood transfusion he received helped him. He even compared himself to an old car, per McCauley, “It's like having an old car. You've got to put gas in it. If it's leaking oil, you've got to put oil in it every day, too.”

The NBA playoffs are set to start on April 16, and Sager has been a major part of the Turner Sports broadcasts for years. McCauley noted Sager said he plans on working through the postseason in 2016 as well and would like to be assigned to a series featuring the San Antonio Spurs because it is close to Houston, where he receives his chemotherapy treatments.

McCauley said there will be eight days of those chemotherapy treatments that begin in the last week of the regular season and will carry over into the playoffs.

If Sager is indeed assigned to cover the Spurs, that will mean fans get the chance to see him interact with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich. The interviews between the two have become things of legend, as Popovich uses his dry sense of humor to insert some comic relief into the broadcasts. 

In fact, Patti Lapel recently unveiled a pin that is generating money for cancer research that features Popovich and Sager in one of those interviews. Jensen Karp shared an image of the pin on Twitter:

In addition to the pin, Sager is a spokesman for leukemia awareness, per McCauley, and is consistently looking to shed more light on the subject.

Sager was right back on the sidelines again on Tuesday night as the Golden State Warriors beat the Washington Wizards, 102-94. Golden State is now 67-7 on its quest to beat the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ all-time record of 72 wins in a season, but it was Sager who was the most inspiring person in Oracle Arena. 

His daughter Kacy suggested as much on Twitter:

Even defending NBA MVP Stephen Curry made sure to say in his postgame interview that Sager is the one inspiring him and the rest of the league:

Working NBA sidelines isn’t the only thing Sager is doing in spite of his illness. McCauley said the broadcaster recently played golf with his children, although he misses running along the water in San Francisco.

McCauley made sure to note Sager has "earned his doctors' trust" because of his ability to handle his health concerns and still work and travel across the country. The fact he is doing just that and continuing to maintain an optimistic attitude is why he is seen by many as such an inspirational figure.