HOUSTON -- The Rockets honored legendary former TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager on Friday night, the one-year anniversary of his death.
Sager, known for his colorful wardrobe and personality as well as his dogged reporting skills, underwent treatment in Houston while battling the acute myeloid leukemia that ultimately caused his death.
The Rockets hosted Sager's widow, Stacy, and several friends and family members during Friday's game against the San Antonio Spurs. A tribute video for Sager was played in the arena during a timeout in the first quarter, chronicling his career and valiant fight against leukemia. Rockets owner Tilman J. Fertitta donated $25,000 to the SagerStrong Foundation, a total matched by the Spurs and Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni and his wife, Laurel.
"It's a fight against something we are aware of. Whatever we can do, as little as it is," said D'Antoni, whose father, Lewis, died from leukemia in October. "And Craig was a friend and meant a lot to the game of basketball."
Another $5,000 was raised when Riley Sager, Craig's 12-year-old daughter, made the "First Shot," a new Toyota Center pregame tradition instituted by Fertitta. A selected guest, usually a celebrity, attempts a free throw before the game with Fertitta paying $5,000 to the charity of the guest's choice for a make and $1,000 for a miss.
"He wasn't just an iconic figure everybody saw on TV, his personality, his clothes and the whole deal," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who was a frequent sparring partner with Sager during sideline interviews and formed a close friendship with the broadcaster. "But that's just a small piece of him. We all knew him a lot more closely and intimately. So he'll always be in everybody's thoughts. When you have a friend like that that you lose, you don't forget those people. So at this time, teams are getting together and trying to do what we can to show the love that we all had for him."