Kevin Harlan Tells Story Of Craig Sager Getting An Iguana On A Plane

By Jake Brown

We lost an icon when Craig Sager passed away Thursday. The funeral proceedings were held on Tuesday in Atlanta. There aren’t too many people that can give a better perspective about Sager than his colleague at TNT, Kevin Harlan.

The CBS, Westwood One, and NBA on TNT play-by-play broadcaster joined me and guest co-host Kim Adams on The Jake Brown Show on CBS Radio’s Play.it today. Harlan spoke with us right after the funeral and had some amazing comments on the legacy he leaves. He also told us one remarkable story of the time Sager snuck an iguana on a plane from Puerto Rico with him and took it out the plane. He was bringing it home for his son. Enjoy.

“The story that I remember most I’ll try to be brief, in 1998 the United States was trying to qualify their Men’s basketball team for the Olympics,” said Harlan. “They had to go to San Juan, Puerto Rico and play teams from South America. Hubie Brown was my analyst, I was doing the play-by-play and Craig was our sideline guy. So we were all in San Juan for like four days, it was terrific, Kevin Garnett was there, so were all the NBA stars. On the flight home, we had brought our five-year old daughter who I had just mentioned is now a sideline reporter for ESPN, but at the time she was five, our daughter Olivia. My wife Ann and I were flying back and Sager was sitting in a seat in front of us, the three of us were together and he was in the row in front of us. About halfway through the flight as we’re going back to the states from San Juan, he gets up and he opens the bin above his seat, he takes down this little bag and he opens the bag and while he’s looking down and trying to get whatever he gets out of the bag, he kind of looks back at our daughter Olivia and kind of smiles and winks and I said ‘uh oh.’

“He brings out a foot long lime green iguana that he captured by the pool and he was gonna bring it home as a pet to his son. Now, first of all you cannot take wild animal’s number one. Number two, you can’t take them on a plane and number three you cannot take them to the United Sates without declaring them. He hid the animal in the bag, but took it out during the flight and let it kind of crawl around on his shoulder, my daughter touched it and he had the biggest smile, he just thought he was so clever and he put it back in the bag, put the bag back up in the bin, closed the bin, sat back down, slept for the next hour and a half, got off took the bag like nothing had happened and I’m sure he had a very happy boy waiting at home to see this iguana that he had illegally taken from Puerto Rico and brought back to the United States. But that was Sager, he lived, he said why not to everything.”

Also, as we have heard before, Sager truly enjoys Bud Light.

“First of all he was a professional reporter, he was a professional journalist, he prepared for games like no other sideline reporter that I’ve seen,” said Harlan. “My daughter is in the business, just getting started, I told her I said watch the way Sager prepares because he would got through every page, every story, every interview, every word and try to find an interesting angle and work hard for it. He always came prepared and I always respected him for that. At the end of the game after all that work, and just getting up for a national broadcast a couple of times a week, he liked to go out and enjoy himself with a nice dinner with friends and he had a bud light at his lips, he had a bud light in his hands, he had a bud light waiting in his pocket and another bud light coming from the bartender across the table. The guy enjoyed bud light and that was brought up at the service today. In a very complimentary way he was not a drinker, but he enjoyed relaxing after games and we all enjoyed it with him.”

Check out the entire interview with Harlan to hear more of his thoughts on Sager, his viral fan on the field calls, and much more by subscribing to The Jake Brown Show on iTunes Podcasts and Spotify or listening above at Play.it.

Jake Brown is the Digital Program Manager at CBS Sports Radio and a columnist for CBS Sports Radio, CBS Local Sports, and CBS Local. You can catch him on The Jake Brown Show on CBS Radio’s Play.it, iTunes, and Spotify. It’s a weekly sports show mixed in with a bit of entertainment and interviews as well every week. He occasionally hosts SportsTalk1240 on WGBB in Long Island, and formerly hosted Brown and Scoop, Brown and Troupe, and on ESPN Radio NH. Jake lives in Queens and being a Mets fan is finally paying off.

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