ESPYS to honor TNT's Craig Sager with Jimmy V Perseverance Award

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Turner Sports reporter Craig Sager has been selected to receive the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at The ESPYS in July.

Sager, a 34-year Turner veteran and popular TNT sideline reporter known for wearing flashy suits, has continued to work as he faces a recurrence of the leukemia he has been battling for the past few years.

"When I was diagnosed with cancer, like so many other people, my life changed forever," Sager said in a statement Monday. "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."

Sager, 64, will be presented the award at the 24th annual ESPYS, which will air live on ABC on July 13 from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.

"One of those pieces of inspiration has come from Jim Valvano himself," Sager said of the late NC State basketball coach, who inspired millions with his courageous battle against cancer in 1993. "I have his [ESPYS] 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."

Sager missed 11 months while undergoing treatment for leukemia and a bone marrow transplant from his son before returning to his position on the sideline during TNT's NBA coverage in March 2015. But he revealed in an interview with HBO in April that his cancer was no longer in remission.

The Jimmy V Award is given to someone in sports who has overcome great obstacles through perseverance and determination. It is named for Valvano, the NCAA-winning coach who gave an emotional acceptance speech at the 1993 ESPYS that included his famous words "Don't Give Up ... Don't Ever Give Up!" He died of cancer later that year.

Sager and Valvano became close when they worked together on basketball at the 1991 Pan American Games in Cuba. Sager recalled that he didn't realize how ill Valvano was until he saw that speech at the ESPYS. Yet as weakened as Valvano was by the cancer, he still summoned the power for that riveting speech.

"He fought until the bitter end," Sager said on TNT's pregame show Tuesday night. "That speech he made on March 3 of 1993 resonates as strong today as it did that day. I have it on my cellphone. I can play it at the hospital when I'm feeling down. 'Don't give up. Don't ever give up.' That's pretty much what I've tried to follow. Don't give up and don't give in."

Sager has said he is in "uncharted waters" and must keep his strength up. He also said he has already undergone two stem cell transplants. It's very rare that someone would have a third, so he said he has to keep his strength up and spirits undeterred despite the latest challenge in his cancer fight.

"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," Maura Mandt, executive producer of the ESPYS, said in a statement. "He serves as an inspiration to many as he continues his work while battling this devastating disease."

Sager will fly back home to Atlanta on Wednesday morning to see his doctors, then out to California that night for Game 5 of the Western Conference finals. After TNT's playoff coverage ends, Sager is scheduled for eight days of chemotherapy in Houston starting June 6. He undergoes the treatment once every three weeks, and this will be his fifth cycle out of six.

The sixth cycle is scheduled for July, before he plans to head to Rio to cover basketball at the Olympics for NBC.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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