San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich fondly remembered TNT reporter Craig Sager on Thursday in his pre-game press conference.
Popovich became notorious for his gruff, humorous and occasionally odd handling of in-game interviews with Sager throughout the years. On Thursday, Sager died at the age of 65 after a long battle with cancer. Popovich took no questions and only discussed his late friend.
Below is the full transcript of Popovich’s comments, according to Fox Sports:
“I guess on a day like this, basketball has to take a back seat as we all think about somebody who was very unique, very special,” Popovich said. “Whether you really knew Craig or not, you got the feeling that he was a special person in a lot of different ways. And right now I just feel for his family.
“To talk about him being a professional or good at what he did is a tremendous understatement. All of us who knew him understood that fact, what he was all about as far as work was concerned, but he was a way better person than he was a worker, even though he was amazing in that regard. He loved people, he enjoyed pregame, during games, postgame — he loved all the people around it, and everybody felt that.
“The most amazing part of him is his courage. What he’s endured, and the fight that he’s put up, the courage that he’s displayed during this situation is beyond my comprehension. And if any of us can display half the courage he has to stay on this planet, to live every (day) as if it’s his last, we’d be well off. We all miss him very much.”
Sager battled cancer for more than two years. He was first diagnosed with leukemia in 2014. He went into remission after a bone marrow transplant, but the the disease ultimately returned in March. He continued to work on and off, including Game 6 of the NBA Finals for ESPN.
In 2014, Popovich memorably conducted an on-air interview with Sager’s son, while Sager Sr. was on leave.
SI's Lee Jenkins wrote about Sager in a cover story earlier this year in the May 2, 2016 issue of Sports Illustrated. You can read Jenkins's full story on Sager's defiantly optimistic battle with cancer on The Crossover.
- Jeremy Woo