The NBA community is mourning the loss of Craig Sager after the legendary broadcaster died Wednesday following a two-year battle with acute myeloid leukemia.
And while tributes have poured in from all corners of the league, including players and coaches from multiple eras, perhaps none contained as much gravity as the message Dennis Rodman tweeted within hours of the announcement of Sager’s death.
For Rodman, Sager wasn’t just an NBA fixture; he was the reason the notoriously troubled Hall of Fame player lived past the age of 31.
“Craig Sager thanks for saving my life when I was in dire need of help in Detroit back in 1993. Condolences to your family. RIP my friend,” Rodman tweeted.
Rodman was referring to a dark chapter in his life, in April 1993, when the Detroit Pistons – the team with which Rodman won two NBA championships – were on the verge of cutting ties with him.
The complicated star found himself adrift and alone – and contemplating suicide.
“Those thoughts went through my head,” he said in a 2011 interview with reporter Graham Bensinger. “I think the circumstances were dispersing from Detroit. The organization wanted to get rid of key people on the team . . . I was basically by myself. [Or so] I thought.”
He added: “I didn’t have no family in Detroit.”
In the Motor City, Rodman “wore out his welcome with his bizarre behavior,” according to a 1993 Los Angeles Times story, which noted he was suspended twice for insubordination and once “removed his shoes and read a magazine after being taken out of a game at Washington.”
The Times reported in October 1993 that “Rodman left a suicide note last February, and police later found him sitting in the parking lot at the Palace of Auburn Hills with a loaded rifle in the back of his truck.”
At the height of his struggle, Rodman disappeared and was considering killing himself when Sager tracked him down on the second floor of a Detroit strip club.
“The Landing Strip,” Sager told Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins earlier this year.
Rodman, Sager told SI, “had the gun. He was going to do it. I told him how stupid that would be.”
The intervention worked.
Rodman demanded a trade soon after and was dealt to the San Antonio Spurs, where his career and personality again blossomed.
He ended his career as a five-time NBA champion with two all-star appearances and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011. (He also briefly married Carmen Electra, dated Madonna and later became a reality television fixture.)
Sager, who had covered NBA games for TNT for the past 26 years, died two days after his induction into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.