TNT reporter Craig Sager, left, picks a shirt and tie to go with a sport jacket he'll wear to the NBA All-Star game Sunday. Hank Taghi helps out.
JOHNNY HANSON: CHRONICLE
TELEVISIONSuited for the occasion
When it comes to fashion, sports reporter Craig Sager is in a league of his own
By DAVID BARRON
Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle
Feb. 15, 2008, 1:40AM
Rockets center Yao Ming, like most NBA players, is familiar with Turner Sports reporter Craig Sager's sense of fashion, which is, in a word, eclectic, and his pace of acquisition, which is, in a word, constant.
At any given time, Sager's 30-foot by 10-foot walk-in closet in his suburban Atlanta home contains a rotating cast of 100 suits, 100 sports jackets and perhaps 200 ties — so many choices that his wife, Stacy, has to make do with closet space in their children's bedrooms.
And so Yao should have realized the potential for the unexpected when he suggested to Sager, after an interview in Yao's hometown of Shanghai several years ago, that they go clothes shopping.
"Ninety percent of silk comes from China," Sager said. "So we go to a suit shop with all this raw silk. But it's boring — all blacks and grays."
In another part of the store, however, several brightly colored bolts caught Sager's eye.
"What's that?" he asked.
Yao stared at him.
"That's the women's section," he said. "Those are for dresses."
"Well, that's what I like," Sager replied. "Let's go over there."
And so they did, which is how Sager acquired a raspberry-colored Chinese silk sports jacket that now resides in his closet, awaiting its next appearance from courtside at an NBA game on an HDTV screen near you.
"You know that look Yao has in the commercials, like he's saying, 'What's with this guy?' " Sager said. "That's the look he gave me."
The raspberry coat isn't the only item in Sager's closet with a Houston connection. Houston, in fact, looms large in Sager's sartorial legend.
At least four times a year, Sager flies to town to visit brothers Hank and Ali Taghi, whose family owns the A. Taghi men's clothing store in the Galleria area. Sager shops at practically every stop on the road, but the Taghis are his go-to guys for special occasions like the playoffs and the NBA All-Star Game.
It was Hank Taghi, in fact, who sold Sager perhaps the most famous suit in NBA television history — a silver and black reflective silk Armani number so riveting that Turner Sports officials made Sager change it during All-Star Saturday in 2001 in Washington, D.C.
"It cost, maybe, $5,000," Sager said. "It's one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. And they only let me wear it for a couple of hours."
The suit, which now hangs in a place of honor at an Atlanta sports bar, inspired the deathless quote from Charles Barkley that summarizes the more extreme reactions to Sager's fashion sense.
"I don't have anything against black people, white people or any kind of people," Barkley said. "But when you start letting pimps interview people, that's where I draw the line."
Barkley was joking — sort of. Fortunately, Sager enjoys the jibes from such noted fashion critics as Shaquille O'Neal, who said Sager's outfits are "horri-awful — horrible and awful combined;" TNT analyst and former Rockets player Kenny Smith, who describes Sager as "the Liberace of the NBA;" and fellow ex-Rocket and current ESPN analyst Jon Barry, who, informed that Sager shops in Houston for clothes, said, "That's interesting. I thought he made them himself."
Such comments, however, send Hank Taghi, whose current and former client list includes Hakeem Olajuwon, Barkley, Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley and others, scurrying to his customer's defense.
"Craig likes fun, colorful things," Taghi said. "He wears them well. Some people can't wear strong colors. They can't handle things that stand out. But some carry it very well. You have to have a strong personality to carry it off."
With the 2008 All-Star Game events taking place this weekend in New Orleans, Sager began preparing several months ago for his weekend ensembles. When he came to Houston last week to work a Rockets game on TNT, his first stop was at A. Taghi to pick up his All-Star coat — a navy blue crushed-velvet number with cream piping assembled for the Houston store by a London tailor.
"It's my Ringo Starr look," Sager said, referring to the fashion style preferred by the former Beatles drummer in the band's late 1960s incarnation.
More specifically, it's probably what Ringo Starr would wear if Ringo owned a New Orleans riverboat.
With the velvet jacket, Sager will wear off-white pants, a white shirt with medium blue stripes and a tie that matches navy blue pleats with royal blue fabric studded with about a half-carat of diamonds.
Tonight's ensemble will feature a peach, pink and teal jacket, light teal shirt and pants and a brown-and-light-blue polka-dot tie.
In two weeks, he'll be back to pick up a carnation-colored linen sports jacket and a few more items to take him through the regular season. And he'll probably return in April or May to stock up before the playoffs.
"I can't wear the same thing in the playoffs. Barkley would kill me," he said. "We have to come up with something new. The players elevate their game. I have to elevate mine. I don't want to wear something that I wore in November in Cleveland to a playoff game in Houston."
Sager, who set his fashion style by wearing Nehru jackets to high school in the 1960s, receives a clothing allowance from Turner, but it's not enough, he said, to make it through one trip to A. Taghi's. He doesn't know how much he spends on clothes annually, adding, "I should be on a budget. But I'm not."
Sager clearly enjoys the attention and the occasional ridicule that his style inspires among players but said, "I don't dress for TV. I dress for me.
"My first job in TV, I showed up wearing a blue and yellow seersucker suit. The director said, 'Ooh, that's not good for TV,' but I wore it anyway. You've got to have fun with it."http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ent/tv/5543366.html