Craig Sager has Died

Craig Sager Has Died


Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

TNT basketball sideline reporter Craig Sager has died. He was 65.

Sager had started treatments for leukemia in 2014. In March of this year, doctors gave him three to six months to live after the cancer was no longer in remission. Sager had planned to cover the Rio Olympics this summer, but had to skip them to undergo more treatments. In a deal with ESPN, he assumed duties with Shelley Smith in Game 6 between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, his first NBA Finals assignment.

Sager developed a comical rapport with San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, who was curt with everyone but eventually softened up towards the reporter, as well as his son, Craig Sager Jr. Sager didn’t want preferential treatment, however, as he told SI’s Richard Deitsch:

“Pop saying he wanted me back and then promising to be nice? I was like, Oh, my God, that’s unbelievable, what an honor,” said Sager. “But then I started thinking about it: If I come back and Pop starts being nice to me, it just wouldn’t be right. I want him to go Serbian on me.”

The Associated Press wrote about Sager’s third bone marrow treatment with stem cells in September, and the sideline reporter’s refusal to accept the bad odds dealt to him:

“Man, life is too beautiful, too wonderful, there’s just too many things,” he said. “It’s not just you. It’s your family and kids and all. Fight. Fight until the end. Fight as hard as you can.”

Even Coach Pop liked Craig Sager (click here).

A Note To Every Basketball Player On Earth

As I’m still composing my “I’m sorry for doubting you Cleveland” article, I came across the most accurately written discussion piece about pick-up basketball that I’ve seen since I read the “White Men Can’t Jump” script.  PLEASE read this article:

How To Play Pickup Basketball Without Being A Pain In The Ass

Illustration by Sam Woolley.

For most of my adult life, I have managed to play basketball two or three times a week. I do this because it is significantly more fun than, say, spending a joyless half-hour on a worn treadmill in some windowless YMCA basement, and at 29, my knee still has yet to explode like poor Shaun Livingston’s. But like every Millennial with an overpriced graduate degree, I have also moved around plenty, logging stints in five major cities (or four, depending on how you feel about Boston) over the past ten years. This means that I am very familiar with the feeling of showing up to a court full of total strangers, high tops in hand, and hoping for the best.

Joining an informal pickup game, by definition, should not be complicated. Yet doing so is often much more difficult than any social interaction should be among purportedly functional adults. At every new spot, one must figure out the pecking order and learn to take in stride the deafening screams of the token player-coach who, for some reason, really wants his team to switch to zone. The dynamic is not much different from being the new kid in school, but with more testosterone-laden shouting matches and wily, older gentlemen who set screens with their astonishingly bony elbows sticking straight out.

If this happens to you, fear not. (Finding a new game, I mean. You should be afraid of geriatric elbows.) Here are some simple DOs and DON’Ts to help you navigate court politics without having everyone hate you and openly refer to you as “Fuckin’ New Guy” until you sigh resignedly and decide to give squash a try after all.

DO interact like a normal human being. Day one. You stride into the gym, purposefully meeting every wayward glance with a hard-eyed stare. Time to show what I’m about, you mutter under Gatorade-laced breath, cranking up the volume on your earbuds and sticking out your jaw because it looks intimidating when Kobe does it. It’s about to go down, you vow as you start shadow-boxing in the far corner of the gym and occasionally rapping along to the most violent lines from “Hit ‘Em Up.”

Yes, even well past the age at which it is acceptable to treat Ball As Life, some bros still feel that their on-court interactions are one continuous referendum on whether they possess the killer instinct. Do not be one of those people. Pretend you are at Thanksgiving dinner with your significant other’s family, but with less nervous sweating. Smile. Use full sentences, and consider (gasp) introducing yourself. As in any other social situation, first impressions are everything. Don’t let Kobe Face ruin yours.

DON’T talk shit. If you insist on doing so in an unfamiliar setting, I personally guarantee that one of three things will happen:

  1. The target of your barbs turns out to be really, really good, and vows to make you look really, really bad, now and forevermore, amen.
  2. You unwittingly pick someone that all the regulars like. They telepathically unite against you, and ten minutes later the meatiest one lays you out with a moving screen that would make Kevin Garnett wince.
  3. Your nemesis turns out to be your direct supervisor at the new office, and you start desperately filling out a Peace Corps application that same day.

Friendly reminder that you are an adult. You have a family (possibly), a job (hopefully), and student loans to pay (definitely, until you are dead). You are not playing for a title, a contract, or anything else that could possibly justify deciding to tell a stranger, to his face, that he is a weak, soft [insert deeply offensive noun of your choice]. Don’t do it.

DO ask for a rules primer. Find out how the game is scored, which lines are out-of-bounds, how jump balls work, and the like. Someone on your team will probably fill you in, in part to make you feel welcome but mostly to ensure that you don’t turn the ball over because you forgot which lines to mind. But if no one speaks up, ask. Otherwise, you’ll be forced to err on the side of caution, jogging up and down the middle of the court between the three-point arcs like Celtics-era Rasheed Wallace. Celtics-era Rasheed Wallace was fun, but not good. Don’t be Celtics-era Rasheed Wallace.

DON’T call a bunch of fouls. Look, if someone Draymonds you, say something, assuming you’re physically able to make sounds other than a low, inhuman moan. But otherwise, smile, resolve to finish next time, and keep running. People will note and appreciate that you do not feel a compulsive need to stop the game with every bump, real or imagined. Plus, once they like playing with you, they won’t get nearly as upset when you’re tired and jog up and down the court like Celtics-era Rasheed Wallace.

DO guard who you’re told to guard. Did your teammates match you up with some dude wearing New Balances and cargo shorts? Are they flagrantly disrespecting your ability check anyone, anytime? Before you start angrily mouthing 2Pac lyrics again, remember that no one here knows you from Anthony Bennett, so no one expects anything of you, either. This is not disrespect. It’s insurance against you being, well, Anthony Bennett.

Taking this personally and insisting on guarding whoever you think you should guard is a very bad plan. At best, you’ll do fine, but because your teammates tried to help and you angrily waved them off, you’re a dick. Worst case, they know something you don’t, New Balances Guy torches you all afternoon, and you’re still a dick. So take it easy. If you indeed go all Kawhi on this chump, you’ll be shuffled to a better matchup soon enough, and before long it will be you telling the new people what to do.

DON’T lose perspective. Here is a true story. After months of trying, I finally scored an invite to a certain pickup game—shoutout YMCA National Capital, rest in peace—which its members quietly organized by email and zealously guarded to keep numbers low and headcases out. They scored by twos and threes (the correct way) to thirty, so with the day’s last game tied at 27, both teams naturally forgot that two-point shots existed. Finally, a guy on the other team launched the game-winner, but while squaring up he put his foot on the line. As the shot floated in mid-air, I called it—“Two!”—like an idiot. The ball sailed through the hoop, both teams began exchanging high-fives and, horrified, I tried to melt silently into the hardwood.

This plan did not work. “SOMEONE SAID ‘TWO.’ NEW GUY?” Dammit. The result of this game did not matter one bit, to me or to anyone else. But once pointed out, I couldn’t disavow the call, or I was a liar, which is the only thing worse than a toe-watcher. So I meekly copped to it and hoped that the universe would correct my mistake. Alas, my teammate promptly hit the actual game-winner. (His feet were well behind the arc.) We won, but EVERYONE was mad at me: the other team, because I took away their game, and my team, because they had to play with Dumbass New Guy Who Messed Up The Run. You won’t believe this, but I was not added to the listserv that morning.

Vince Lombardi (among others) famously observed that winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. But Lombardi probably said this because if he didn’t win, he would get fired. No matter what happens, you still have to go to your office and file TPS reports when the game is over. So give the benefit of the doubt to hustle plays, ignore the occasional foot shuffle, and don’t wipe out a cool, fun sequence because you were so carefully scrutinizing toe placement. Everyone will have a better time if you let stuff go.

DO go beyond basketball. Assuming no one acts like a sociopath, on-court chemistry leads to off-court friendships, too. At each game of which I’ve been a part, the regulars do things like get together for drinks, look after each other’s kids, help with job searches, and go in on a thoughtful gift each time another player gets married. At this VERY post-Hoop Dreams stage of your basketball career, this is what actually matters.

So yes, the politics can be hilarious and inane. But navigating them is just a silly hoop (sorry) through which you have to jump, and becoming part of a genuinely meaningful community on the other side is well worth it. Good luck out there, don’t sleep on New Balances Guy, and save me a spot for next.

I Think I’m Gonna Be Sick

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The man with the best bracket and most points racked up among the 3 million brackets submitted to Yahoo sports made a terrible, terrible mistake.  He forgot to pick a champion.

$50,000 in prize money on the line, and he did not pick a champion.

James Kiki’s nailed some early upsets, he had seven of the Elite Eight teams correct.  He has a perfect Final Four.  He is tied with two other people for first overall, just three games away from a $50,000 grand prize.  James Kiki will not win. Here is his bracket.

“I don’t even want to think about it,” Kiki told Syracuse.com.

Ready to get even more upset?

Kiki, a South Sudanese refugee who works for a nonprofit in Syracuse, says he’d never filled out a bracket in his life, and only did so because he saw he could win $50,000.

But he was challeneged by Yahoo’s somewhat unintuitive picking system.  Kiki says he forgot about his bracket—“I’ve been watching the games, but I didn’t even know what teams I picked”—but only realized how well he had done, and how he had screwed up, when he was flooded by messages from other Yahoo users telling him how stupid he was.

I think I’m gonna be sick.

Two And A Half Minutes Of A Terrific Waste Of Time

This video is for every single person/kid/adult-when-drunk-at-a-park that has ever recreated a buzzer beater with no one watching.

We’ve all done it in our driveway at some point, “3……..2………1………the shot is up……….IT’S GOOD!  IT’S GOOD!”

Is watching a grown man at an empty park, in the rain, recreate 13 different March Madness classic buzzer beaters with actual footage edited in a waste of time?

Yes, probably.

Should you be doing something more productive today?

Yes, probably.

Will you watch this again a second time and now fall deep into the youtube pigeon-hole of classic buzzer beaters and NCAA March Madness and then cry uncontrollably as you enter the realm of “One Shining Moment” montage videos over and over again for the next hour?

Yes, definitely.

March Madness is officially here.

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March Madness – How To Get Out Of Working All Day

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Here is the official March Madness bracket, in case you don’t have time to do any googling on your own.

‘s Tournament time once again, and with three No. 1 seeds and some big names getting play started on Thursday afternoon, chances are you’ll want to watch the games while you’re away from your house or your nearest television. Fear not, as it’s easier than ever to watch every game without being near a television.

All NCAA Tournament games can be streamed online with NCAA March Madness Live. There’s also an NCAA March Madness Live app for iOSAndroidWindows 10Amazon, and Roku, so you can watch every game, even if you’re not at home or near a TV. March Madness Live has also added Chromecast support this year, so there are more ways than ever to get the game onto the TV.

It should be noted that March Madness Live requires authentication through your TV provider login. You can also check out the games through online television providers like SlingTV and Playstation Vue. Those services also require a signup, but you don’t need to go through a standard provider.

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Nuts and Bolts, Nuts and Bolts; Boise State Got SCREWED

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Even as a local Coloradoan, I can say confidently that we got away with one here.

Last night in an entertaining mid-major college hoops feet of strength, the Boise State Broncos seemed to have pulled off the miracle buzzer-beating win over the hosting Colorado State Rams.  The Broncos’ James Webb III hit’s a bank-shot three pointer with just 0.8 seconds left to play to seemingly give the Idahoians a huge Mountain West conference win on the road from the planet Hoth (Colorado).

BUT (huge ass on this one), when the zebras went to the monitor to review the last second hot-potato, they determined that the clock did not start at the exact moment when Webb III received the ball, and therefore ruled that he did not get the shot off in under .8 seconds.  Now if you’re a man of science, or just common sense, you may ask how the refs got to this conclusion, how did they determine the lag time in the clock starting?  They used the same tool that your girlfriend/wife throws in your face every Friday night to determine if you provided them with the “satisfaction” of a good night sleep……a stop-watch.

Here is the shot in slow motion, notice the clock above the basket:

ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt weighed in last night with his two-cents.

And now for the twitter-verse to take control and ruin every referee’s life for the next week:

A real-life reliable way to determine how long it took Webb III to get that shot off is to break down the video of the shot frame by frame, which is completely possible to do in real time during the game.  Webb III held the ball for 17 frames before releasing it, which is equal to 0.57 seconds.  BOOM, done and done.

Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan Announces Retirement Effective Immediately

Mar 29, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Wisconsin Badgers head coach Bo Ryan celebrates by cutting the net after overtime in the finals of the west regional of the 2014 NCAA Mens Basketball Championship tournament against the Arizona Wildcats at Honda Center. The Badgers defeated the Wildcats 64-63. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Bo Ryan announced his retirement as the Wisconsin Badgers head basketball coach on Tuesday night.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal‘s Jim Polzin, Coach Bo Ryan and Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez agreed this semester would be the best time for Ryan to announce his retirement to give interim head coach Greg Gard an opportunity “to take a run at the job.”

Over the summer, Ryan announced the 2015-16 season would be his last, but the midseason announcement came as a HUGE surprise to the basketball world.

“I’m sure I’ll have more to say later, but it’s extremely difficult,” Ryan said Tuesday night, according to the program’s official Twitter account. “I’ll see you down the road.”

Ryan leaves the Badgers as the winningest coach in school history with 7 Big Ten Titles and 2 Final Four appearances.  He’s already being called the 2nd best coach in all of the state of Wisconsin’s sports history (Vince Lombardi).

It’s very fitting that the great Bo Ryan; a man who didn’t necessarily buy into the glitter and glamour of the current state of college basketball, a man that represents an old-school toughness and team-play brand of basketball, a man that didn’t buy into the “one-and-done” mentality of college hoops; retires in the middle of a season on a Tuesday night after a non-televised game against Texas Corpus Christi without any warning or specified press conference.

In a Norman Dale-ish way, Coach Ryan walked into the post-game press conference and said to the Wisconsin fans, ” I would hope you would support who we are. Not, who we are not. These individuals have made a choice to work, a choice to sacrifice, to put themselves on the line 23 nights for the next 4 months, to represent you, this high school. That kind of commitment and effort deserves and demands your respect. This is your team.” 

Mic drop………..”I love you guys”.

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We Better Enjoy LSU’s Ben Simmons While We Can

The college basketball season may be in it’s young and infantile-Michael Bay Transformers movie-stages thus far for the 2015-16 season, but it hasn’t fallen short of entertaining for those who are paying attention.

While most of you are still stuck in the tornado-vortex of the Fanduel/Draft Kings-NFL season and the ensuing College Football Playoff that will inevitably enrage the world, the college basketball season is into it’s third week of play and if there’s one item of consequence you should pay attention to, it’s Ben Simmons from the LSU Tigers.

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Let me get you all up on the #1 college recruit for this season.  The LSU freshman forward played in his first nationally televised game last night, dropping 21 points, 20 rebounds and 7 assists.  Simmons is a 6’10”, silky-smooth, Lamar Odom-ish cocktail with a splash of Kevin Durant off the dribble, and is averaging 19 points, 14 rebounds, and 5 assists per game through his first four games of the young season.

THIS is who Ben Simmons is:

Wanna see it again?

Simmons is from Melbourne, Australia originally and was the No. 1 recruit coming into this season.  If you have a few minutes to waste, he’s got a TON of high school mixtapes from his time at Montverde Academy in Florida. So far he’s only exceeded expectations at LSU, and even though we’re only at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this college season there’s no reason to think that Simmons isn’t the front-runner to be the #1 pick in next season’s NBA draft.

**sidenote: There were over 50 NBA scouts watching Simmons at the Barclay’s Center last night in Brooklyn, and I’m sure they saw what I saw, a potential franchise-changer.