Dwyane Wade’s ‘cough’ sparks media scrutiny
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org June 12, 2011 2:00PM
Lebron James (left) and Dwayne Wade | Getty Images
Updated: June 12, 2011 8:33PM
MIAMI — This year’s NBA Finals rates an A for competitiveness — four games down to the final minute, three down to the buzzer; and a B for the quality of the competing teams — the ’08 Celtics, ’09 and 2010 Lakers and ’11 and ’12 Heat would beat either of these teams in five games, six at the most.
But for sideshows, it’s an F. When one of the peripheral storylines of the Finals is Mark Cuban not being a sideshow, you know things are bad. In the 2006 Finals between the Mavericks and the Heat, Cuban was such a distraction with his headline-making courtside histrionics and David Stern-levied fines, you could argue he also helped his own team take its eye off the ball. After taking a 2-0 series lead against the Heat, the Mavericks dropped four straight.
But Cuban is on his best behavior this year — and, perhaps not coincidentally the Mavericks lead the Finals 3-2 heading into Game 6 tonight at American Airlines Arena. And we’re left to dig way too deep for an off-the-court storyline with any traction.
The latest failure is Dwyane Wade’s ‘‘cough.’’ As Wade and LeBron James were walking down a corridor in the bowels of American Airlines Center in Dallas after the team’s shootaround prior to Game 5 — a television cameraman walking backwards to stay in front of them — Wade coughed, then pulled his shirt over his mouth, saying, ‘Did you hear me cough? I think I’m sick.’’ James joined in on the fun, also pulling his shirt over his mouth and appearing to cough.
It was perceived as mocking Dirk Nowitzki, who overcame a sinus infection and 101-degree fever to lead the Mavericks to victory in Game 4. The video went ‘‘viral’’ on the internet and became a topic during media interviews Saturday in Miami.
Nowitzki added credence to the reaction by taking it personally. ‘‘I just thought it was a little childish, a little ignorant,’’ Nowitzki said. ‘‘I’ve been in this league for 13 years. I’ve never faked an injury or illness before.’’
Now that’s a story — except that Wade and James weren’t mocking Nowitzki. And they weren’t trying to give the impression that Nowitzki was faking his illness. What they were mocking was the media’s habit of turning every molehill at the NBA Finals into Mount Everest; of magnifying every aspect of the series — good or bad — into a larger-than-life story.
Whether it’s James’ fourth-quarter production or Wade celebrating a three-pointer in front of the Mavericks bench, it’s an inevitable effect with the massive media coverage at the Finals. The least we can do is respect the fact that it’s annoying to the players.
Especially James and Wade. With all the attention they’ve received, this entire season has been the NBA Finals for them. And they’re as acutely aware of the effect as any player in the league. When James was asked about the Mavericks’ DeShawn Stevenson saying James ‘‘checked out’’ in Game 4 — yet another exaggerated storyline — James smiled, and noticed the media’s reaction.
‘‘I like it when I smile and the flashes go off,’’ he said, laughing. ‘‘It’s pretty cool.’’
Wade in particular deserves a pass on this one. Though he’s a shameless flopper, Wade as much or more than any player in the league that injuries and illnesses are no excuse. He fended off any attempt to bring it up when it appeared he had a bum shoulder as he struggled against the Bulls in the Eastern Conference finals. He not only won’t use it himself, he’ll do everything he can to dissuade the media for making the excuse for him.
So it’s within his right to be annoyed with any attempt to turn Dirk Nowitzki’s maladies in the Finals — a torn middle-finger tendon and the sinus infection — into legend.
‘‘I have respect for him as a great player. I’m not going to get into injuries,’’ Wade said when asked if he was ‘‘impressed’’ with Nowitzki’s play despite the injury and illness. ‘‘Everyone is injured at this time. I’m not going to get into the fun-loving story of him being sick either. Once you show up on the court, you show up on the court.
‘‘Everyone is equal. He’s a great player without all the dramatics of the stories that’s been going on. That won’t change anything that goes on in his career. I’m not getting into that.’’
That sounds pretty fair to me. And it seems pretty clear his issue is with the media dramatizing the story, not Dirk Nowitzki dramatizing the injury or illness.
But to others, it’s a chance to make something out of nothing. Here’s how Randy Galloway, a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, played it:
‘‘This is the same guy who blew off Dirk Nowitzki’s illness of Game 4 with ‘he’s a great player without all the dramatics,’ ’’ Galloway wrote in Friday’s Star-Telegram.
‘‘What’s this? The drama queen of the league scoffing at someone else’s misfortune?’’
That’s what it is if you edit Wade’s quote to make it look that way. What Wade said was, ‘‘He’s a great player without all the dramatics of the stories that’s been going on.’’
That’s as shameless in our business as any of Wade’s most egregious flops are in his. But that’s the problem with mocking the media for blowing things out of proportion. We’ll blow that out of proportion, too. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James just can’t win.