Gary Payton is the latest of athletes within the NBA family to share his sentiments toward TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager, who died Thursday night after a brave three-year fight against leukemia.
The Glove was his usual candid-self, remembering how he first found out of Sager’s passing.
“It was very heart-breaking for me. I was watching TV, SportsCenter and then it came across,” Payton told TMZ Sports. “You know, it really touched me because Craig was one of those guys that was really close and he covered a lot of my basketball games and for me to see him beating (cancer) once and then seeing Charles (Barkley) visiting him in the hospital — I thought he was gonna make it. It’s just been a terrible moment for me to see Craig like that.”
Sager was an avid basketball fan and his joy for the game and people directly reflected in his day-to-day life as a person and a professional.
“Craig was always funny,” said Payton. “He always wanted to be jokeful… he was so genuine about us. He liked the players and we liked him. That’s what made him so close to us.”
“All I remember about Craig was his kind heart,” he added. “That’s what I liked about him, he was really kind. He never had anything negative to say about you. If you had a problem and he thought it was negative and that is was gonna hurt you and your career, he would come at you and say, ‘you should look out for this, you shouldn’t do that’ and that was the best thing about him.”
Needless to say, there will be an irreplaceable void within TNT and the NBA family, and even when it is filled, there will always be the loving memory of the ultimate professional who loved the game just as much as the people he met through it.