One of the things that I’m passionate about, outside of being a father and movies/TV shows is basketball. I grew up with a basketball in my hands, because I didn’t grow up with my brother and sisters. I grew up by myself. When I would walk all throughout our neighborhood, I dribbled a basketball. Didn’t have anything to do, I’d walk to a park and shoot by myself. When I was at home, even if I was talking on the phone (something I hate doing by the way!), I’d be shooting a basketball straight up in the air, watching the ball rotation, just to see if I had it right, for when it came time to get on the court. Basketball, for me, was that place or thing I did to find solace. I’ve never been the highest jumper, never was the fastest but boy could I shoot!
Once you graduate from high school, you start to learn what it means to become an adult. My oldest son was born when I was 19. I wanted to be a father more than anything in the world. But even as my son was growing up, one thing we started to do, was watch all sports together, especially basketball. After he would get out of elementary, I’d walk to school and walk him back home (we lived one block from the elementary), flip on ESPN and LeBron James was playing high school basketball games on national television! My son was 3, 4 and 5 during LeBron’s high school years and us watching him play, that became his favorite player. He basically grew up knowing everything about LeBron James, the same way I did with Michael Jordan. So from there, he and I started trying to watch more high school games and figure out who might be that “next” player. I ran across the name Kevin Durant. Kept up with everything I could about the young man. To make things even more interesting, KD ended up choosing to go to a school that I would have ended up going to, had I not chose to become a father, the University of Texas. When Michael Jordan walked away from the Washington Wizards, Kevin Durant was in the NBA, so it was an easy transition for me, after going without a “favorite player to follow” for a couple of years.
I brought up the topic about not growing up around my brother and sisters, because I do have multiple sisters, just didn’t know they were my sisters growing up. In 2007, I got word of one of my younger sisters being in the hospital, which kind of threw me for a loop, cause I didn’t even know she was sick, much less had cancer. She went from being given months, to some weeks, to days to live. It went by in a flash. I lost my sister at the young age of 26.
Today is so conflicting and extremely bittersweet… got a call Monday that my prosthesis is ready and Wednesday (Today) would be the only day in the next couple of weeks I could go in and get it, hopefully walking out. Today is also 8 years to the day that my little sister has been gone. I know we all have been through a lot, but watching her go through what she had to, it seems like my problems aren't any where as big. She helped me make some life choices in her final days that I'm so thankful for. She's also amongst the many reasons I try to be as good a dad as I possibly can and do for others if I have the opportunity. Talk about hitting you all at once, oldest sister's birthday is exactly a week ago and my cousin's birthday, who is still like the brother I never had, his birthday is tomorrow. So Missy, still think of you everyday, when a certain song comes on and when I see my kids, Bella resembles you! You're still helping me make it through life even today! Finally found someone who fits what you told me the last time I was the foot of your bed! Love you little sis… #RIP
Fast forward to four years ago this October. Now do remember, this is the short version of this story, because this isn’t about me, this indeed is about Craig Sager and how he played a role in my life. So in October of 2012, I’m in the hospital after stepping into a chemical and getting a third degree burn on my foot. Seven days of the burn unit. The only comfort: NBA basketball on TNT. A few days later, another stint in the hospital, this time, a total of 19 days. Some surgeries were required. Again, the only constant was basketball, even on the small TV’s that the hospital has on them, was comforting. So I end up dealing with going to a burn specialist for over almost a year. Once a week, had to go in, get a cast, check the burn, deal with all of the problems a burn can bring. I would get sick and sicker, so one day, came to the conclusion, if it’s not getting any better, it could potentially get worse. I spoke with the surgeon and just told him, “amputate. I’d rather be missing a leg, than not be here for my kids. They need me here.” That time, what felt like a month in the hospital, the only thing I looked forward to, was basketball, sometimes on TNT, sometimes ESPN. The one thing that stood out to me: Craig Sager. Now, I had seen Mr. Sager on the sidelines of basketball, baseball and even some football. The times I saw him on the sidelines, he was always wearing something that to me, was definitely LOUD! But I mean LOUD in the sense that, I have to say, I was probably jealous that I didn’t think I could pull off whatever Mr. Sager was wearing. It definitely brought some smiles and happier times to the days of being stuck in a hospital bed AND not being able to walk!
May 20th is bittersweet to say the least. I lost my sister that day, but it’s also the day I got my first prosthetic and was able to walk again, almost as if nothing ever happened. It was crazy, the gentleman at the prosthetic place even got upset with me, because I was walking without even using a walker.
You’ll notice in the pictures below, I have on the Kevin Durant Aunt Pearl 5’s on my prosthesis, which also has a t-shirt of KD’s used as the cover.. The first day I was able to walk again, it was my way of paying tribute to my sister, on the day that the world lost her.
What can I say, I'm a Kevin Durant fan!!! Today, took the first steps in over 8 months!!! Been dealing with my foot/leg being burned for 2 years, 8 months and 3 weeks!!! #KD #KevinDurant #TeamKD #TeamDurant #OKCThunder now I can keep up (somewhat) with my kids!!! Thanks to everyone who has said prayers and looked out for me and mine!!!
The second prosthetic:
My whole entire purpose in writing this, maybe other than even being a little therapeutic, as I haven’t ever sat here and thought about now being an amputee, is to show you that someone from across the country or better yet even across the world, can potentially bring some sort of joy into your life. Why not try and do the same for someone else? I’ve had the opportunity to send tweets back and forth with one of Mr. Sager’s children, his daughter, Kacy Sager (@THESagerbomb) about basketball and the disdain for Pumpkin Spice ANYTHING via Twitter. Drop her a note, I’m sure she’d love to hear a story on how her father might have affected your life. The main things Craig Sager touched my life with, was his basketball and even other sports reporting, but also as a role model, because like I always wanted to be, he was a father. You can tell his kids were loved.
Just as with his kids, the NBA players and coaches were also touched by Mr. Sager:
Long Live Craig. We love you! Rest in Paradise
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) December 15, 2016
— Gerald Bourguet (@GeraldBourguet) December 16, 2016
the legend craig sager with two fans pic.twitter.com/lVj4ro1R0u
— harsh (@IamHarshDave) December 15, 2016
— BIG BURGER BRAND 🍔 (@NNanpei) December 15, 2016
The SagerStrong Foundation has shirts that are available right now, to bring raise funding to help out leukemia patients, being sold by 500 Level clothing. You might have seen them on TV or on social media, if not, check them out below: