The passing of TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager has brought along a relentless outpouring of love and support from the NBA community, especially so from the players who have been in the league a long time, like Los Angeles Lakers icon Kobe Bryant.

The five-time champion was on Mike and Mike on Friday and gave a lot of insight into Sager’s life, legacy, and the eye-catching outfits he’s been known for throughout his illustrious career.

“As players we all looked forward to seeing him,” Bryant said. “A: just for what he was going to wear, and B: for his explanation of why he’s wearing it, and C: just his energy. Whenever he was speaking to players he was speaking with a great amount of energy, but he’d ask great questions, great insightful questions about the game. He was one of the rare reporters who could come up to an athlete, and the athlete feel completely comfortable to be able to be open with him. That’s a rare gift to have.”

Bryant didn’t shy away of mentioning his often odd and colorful outfits, and the confidence that comes with him being himself in front of a TV audience.

“There’s only a few of us who can pull that off,” Bryant said of Sager’s outfits. “You’re one of them, and I’m not. God bless you.”

“He was Craig,” added Bryant. “He was himself. That’s who he is. When you own that, man, you start defining your own cool, which is what he did.”
The 18-time NBA All-Star was cognizant of one of Sager’s innate gifts in his profession, the ability of connecting with an interviewee to the point where the mic in front of him becomes invisible.
“It’s in the flexibility of his questions,” Bryant said. “Normally as athletes, and we’re all aware of this when you sit down and you’re given an interview, is there a direction that the person is trying to steer you in. If there’s a direction they’re steering you in, there’s most likely an angle they’re looking for. With Craig there never was that. He would ask a question, you’d give an answer, and the answer you gave would dictate what his next question would be. It was as if you were just having a friendly conversation vs. doing an interview, and those are two completely different things.”
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An old journalistic saying once declaimed: “Journalists are not those who relentlessly ask, but those who’re constantly willing to listen.” Sager was the quintessential listener — his ability to dissect words and process them accordingly made his interviews fun and insightful.
The Lakers legend shined light on Sager’s battle with cancer and the profound inspiration he was to many after undergoing treatment and his recovery as publicly as he did.
“He’s just Sager Strong,” Bryant said. “I read that on his phone he kept the Jimmy V speech as a form of inspiration for himself to be able to go on and fight the fight himself. I think he understood having seen what Jimmy V went through how important and how much this could carry on for people that are maybe going through the same thing out in the world, or are going to do the same thing years from now. I think he was very aware of that. Because of the strength he had inside of him, he was able to fight it, and not only just fight it, but put up a beautiful fight.”
Bryant is perfectly aware that the story of Craig Sager is just starting to be told, with many more anecdotes and parts of his life soon to come to the front.
“We’ll start peeling back those layers as time goes on, the really profound impact he’s had on the game,” he said.