Craig Sager is set to be honored with the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the 2016 ESPYs on July 13, ESPN announced Tuesday.
Sager “is one of the most respected sideline reporters in sports and he is well known for both his colorful attire and personality,” the sports network said in a statement. “Given a life-changing diagnosis of leukemia in 2014, TNT’s hard-working veteran returned to the sidelines in 2015 and continues to publicly battle the disease while remaining committed to the work he loves.”
“When I was diagnosed with cancer, like so many other people, my life changed forever,” Sager said in the announcement. “Over the last two years, I’ve done everything in my power to live my life as normally as possible. But at times, you need support and I’m so thankful to everyone who has been there for me.”
The 64-year-old continued: “One of those pieces of inspiration has come from Jim Valvano himself. I have his speech saved on my phone and, now 23 years later, its impact lives on with me and countless others. There is no greater honor than receiving this award and I am very humbled.”
The ESPYs executive producer, Maura Mandt, went on to praise Sager for his courage and his strength. “Craig’s positive attitude and passion have always been cornerstones of the coverage he does for TNT and those attributes are a large part of what endears him to fans,” she said. “He serves as an inspiration to many as he continues his work while battling this devastating disease.”
The beloved “NBA on TNT” sideline reporter revealed earlier this year that even after two stem-cell transplants, his cancer has returned. “Very rarely does somebody have a third,” he told HBO’s “Real Sports” in March. Describing his current health situation as “unchartered waters,” Sager said, “I haven’t won the battle. It’s not over yet, but I haven’t lost it, either.”
Known as much for his colorful and flamboyant wardrobe as his compelling courtside interviews, Sager’s popularity has transcended all rivalries between teams or networks to make his one of the most likable faces in sports media since he began his career in 1972. It’s also earned the Batavia, Illinois, native a nomination for the Sports Emmy Award for Outstanding Sports Personality — Sports Reporter in 2012.
“While there are many colorful figures across the world of sports, Craig is a star that has always shined a bit brighter than others,” Connor Schell, senior vice president, ESPN Films and Original Content, who oversees the ESPYS, said. “His dedication to continuing the career he loves in spite of this difficult illness is the very definition of perseverance and we’re proud to honor Craig at this year’s ESPYs.”
The Jimmy V Perseverance Award was named for, and inspired by, the late Jim Valvano who became the award’s raison d’être at the 1993 ESPYs. While battling cancer, Valvano gave an emotional acceptance speech that included his famous words “Don’t give up … don’t ever give up!” Valvano passed away less than two months later, but his words were never forgotten.
In 2014, “SportsCenter” host Stuart Scott made one of the most inspirational speeches in ESPYs history when he was honored with the award, telling the audience during the ceremony in Los Angeles: “When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.”
Tragically, Scott lost his hard-fought battle with cancer on Jan. 4, 2015 at age 49, but left an unforgettable legacy behind him.
Last year’s Jimmy V honorees were NFL player Devon Still and his 5-year-old daughter, Leah, who was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma stage 4 cancer in 2014, but has been in remission for the past six months.
The 2016 ESPYs will air July 13 on ABC. ESPN announced last week that WWE superstar John Cena will be this year’s host.
— ESPYS (@ESPYS) May 25, 2016