Pop's heartfelt words to ailing Sager: 'I promise I'll be nice'
APR 20, 2014 2:54p ET
Illness is keeping legendary NBA sideline reporter Craig Sager out of action during the playoffs, but his son did an admirable job filling in for him Sunday during the Spurs-Mavs game -- so much so that even one of the game's most curmudgeonly coaches had to give both Sagers their due.
In a statement issued Friday, the elder Sager revealed that a battle with leukemia would sideline him from this year's playoffs:
"My favorite time of year -- city to city, round by round, 40 games in 40 nights. A dramatic turn has matched me with acute myeloid leukemia. From the sidelines to being sidelined, 40 veins and 40 electrolytes. Too bad, I had some probing questions for Pop."
While Sager himself may not have been able to chat with "Pop" (San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich), Sager's son was able to step in at the end of the third quarter and do the honors.
Coach Pop is known as a man of few words, and he's notoriously curt and cantankerous with the media. But in this rare and genuine moment, it's clear how Pop feels about the ailing Sager, a longtime fixture of the game and one of basketball's most iconic journalists.
In the video below, Popovich takes a break from the interview and directly addresses the camera:
"You (Sager Jr.) did a great job, but I'd rather have your dad standing here. ... We want your fanny back on the court. I'll promise I'll be nice. Get back here. Good luck."
Sager Sr. and Pop go way back, a fact Sager Jr. pointed out in a recent tweet:
Popovich wasn't alone in paying tribute to Sager on Sunday. Before the Spurs and Mavericks tipped off, the NBA on TNT crew -- including Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal -- donned "special Craig Sager throwback uniforms" to honor their colleague.
a small tribute to Craig Sager who has started his leukemia fight. Dressing like Sager#getwellsage— Kenny Smith (@TheJetOnTNT) April 20, 2014
In the video from the broadcast, Shaq can even be seen wiping away what appear to be tears, as his broadcasting partners praise Sager:
Johnson: "We send our best, obviously."
Smith: "Sager-vision, we miss you."
Barkley: "He's the best. And he's a great guy."