TNT broadcaster Craig Sager accepted the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the ESPYs on Wednesday night.
Vice president Joe Biden was on hand to present the honor, as Sager’s two-year fight with acute myeloid leukemia continues. He has undergone chemotherapy and had multiple relapses, receiving regular treatment in Houston to suppress the effects of his condition. All the while, Sager has been a presence on NBA sidelines and broadcasts, as he has for many years, whenever his health permits.
Clad in a colorful jacket, shoes and tie as usual, Sager, 65, took the stage to accept the award, emotional as he spoke.
“Jimmy V’s inspirational message is on my phone, [a] constant source of encouragement and inspiration. It’s always at my bedside at the hospital and i can read it anytime I want,” Sager said.
He thanked the Valvano family and all of his own family members who were present, including his wife and five children. “My battle has been your battle.”
“Sports are who I am in my soul, they have guided my life, and I have had the good fortune to witness all of your amazing feats,” he said to the athletes in attendance. “And I am confident that I will continue to watch those amazing feats.”
“When you are diagnosed with a terminal disease...your perception of time changes,” Sager added. “When doctors tell you you have three weeks to live, you try to live a lifetime of moments in three weeks, to hell with three weeks! ... Time is something that cannot be bought, it cannot be wagered with God, and it is not an endless supply...
“If I’ve learned anything through all of this, it’s that each day is a canvas waiting to be painted.”
Sager shared moments from his own life, and was emphatic in making clear that cancer researchers are making progress.
“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. Thank you, and goodnight.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver congratulated Silver with a tweet.
Congrats to Craig Sager on receiving the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the ESPYs. An icon of our game and an inspiration to so many. Adam— NBA (@NBA) July 14, 2016
“Like Jimmy Valvano, Craig Sager embodies the best of who we are as Americans,” vice president Biden said this week in a statement forwarded to Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch. “For four decades Craig’s been the go-to-guy on the sidelines for us to better understand a game we love and its place in our culture. But in the real game of life, he’s teaching all of us something bigger—how to live life with purpose, determination, and love.
On behalf of all Americans, and cancer patients and their families who he inspires every day, I’m honored to be presenting Craig with an award that reminds us as a nation that we can never give up in our fight to end cancer as we know it.”
- Jeremy Woo