FRIDAY MEDIA COLUMN
In the recent history of athlete commercials, few were as clever or memorable as Charles Barkley and Dwyane Wade kibitzing on those catchy T-Mobile cell phone ads. Wade finally cracked Barkley's Fav Five, to the relief of much of America, but then immediately lost his spot after Barkley discovered Wade's nickname was "Pookie."
Fast forward three years, and here’s my question: Why in the world does Barkley keep needling D-Wade?
It’s one thing to criticize Wade for his horrendous Game 3 against Indiana, from which he has rebounded splendidly. But it’s quite another for Barkley to level puzzling shots at his former T-Mobile partner. Among them:
### Wade, Barkley said recently, “gets far too much credit” for the Heat’s 2006 championship, asserting that Shaquille O’Neal and Alonzo Mourning made the difference against the Mavericks. You might recall – even if Barkley doesn’t - that Wade averaged 34.7 points and 7.9 rebounds and led the Heat to four straight wins against Dallas. Even O’Neal, on TNT’s set, scoffed at Barkley’s theory.
### Wade, Barkley said, “doesn’t make players around him better.” You know who might disagree? That mostly undistinguished cast that Wade led to the playoffs – without LeBron James – in Erik Spoelstra’s first two seasons as coach.
### While making a broader point that James should be taking more late-game shots, Barkley inexplicably felt compelled to add this:
“You know the thing that’s funny? Dwyane Wade never gets any criticism because he didn’t close in the Finals last year. I actually think LeBron got tired. He used a lot of energy shutting down Derrick Rose. Then he had to guard Jason Terry. I think he got tired. But it's funny how Wade doesn't get any criticism for not finishing in the Finals last year. Wade’s a great offensive player, but LeBron makes everybody around him better.”
Barkley should check the stats. Wade scored more than any other player in last year’s Finals – his 26.5 average a shade over Dirk Nowitzki’s 26.0 and much higher than James’ 17.8. He also shot 54.6 percent – better than James’ 47.8 and Nowitzki’s 41.6. Could Wade have done more late in close games? Certainly. But so could have everybody else on the Heat.
And Barkley wants to make an issue of Wade’s play in the Finals? As the ESPN NFL studio guys would say, “C’mon, Man!”
Let’s be clear: Barkley shouldn’t speak favorably about Wade just because they worked together. And Wade wouldn’t expect that. But Barkley comes off as if he’s searching for something negative to say about him.
Wade said he wasn’t aware of Barkley’s comments and “I respect Charles for being a great player. I respect the relationship we have. He has a job to do. Whatever he’s going to say, he can say it. It doesn’t change the time I go to sleep, the time I wake up, and what I do in between. It’s TV ratings.
“It’s not going to change ’06. So sorry, Charles, it’s not going to change ’06 at all. I was a big part of that championship. Did I do it all by myself? No. I had a lot of help. But I had a couple of games in there that helped lead my team to a championship.”
Wade said he has not spoken to Barkley “in a while. When I see him, I show respect as being a player that came before me that helped pave the way, especially a guy that’s not that much taller than me in a sense of what he did in the game. But I don’t get involved in what those guys say because they have a microphone and get to talk."
AROUND THE DIAL
### This was predictable: National pundits ripping the selection of the Dolphins to appear on HBO’s Hard Knocks. “Other than Reggie Bush, the Dolphins?” ESPN’s Michael Wilbon asked incredulously. “Who are they?”
Woody Paige, on ESPN’s Around the Horn, complained: “Who really cares about the Dolphins? They’re no longer relevant in the National Football League.”… NFL Network announced it will retain Warren Sapp, who was dropped by Showtime.
### ESPN plans to hire Jason Taylor as an analyst on assorted studio shows - including NFL Live, NFL 32 and SportsCenter, according to industry sources.
### Stephen “Screaming A.” Smith, whose show was canceled by ESPN in 2009, is back with a fairly prominent role. Hired to do a talk show on ESPN Radio’s New York affiliate in February 2011, the bombastic Smith will join the cast of ESPN2’s First Take beginning Monday, serving as Skip Bayless’ sparring partner.
Both are as polarizing as anybody on the ESPN payroll, and their debates could either enthrall viewers or send them reaching furiously for their remote control.
### Don’t be surprised if WQAM-560 pursues Jorge Sedano if the station and Michael Irvin part ways. WQAM said it’s uncertain whether Irvin will remain beyond July. Sedano left 790 The Ticket last month to focus on his TV career. He does a sports fantasy show for CBSSports.com.... WQAM and WMEN are making progress in negotiations that would allow Sid Rosenberg to escape his WQAM non-compete clause and soon begin his job as WMEN-640's morning host. But a deal isn't done, and if the sides can't break through the final stages of talks, he could not begin the gig until the second week of August.
### Oops: WPLG-10 news reporter Sasha Andrade said last Saturday that the Heat would play the winner of the series between the Celtics and “the Philadelphia 69ers.”
Was Andrade the victim of a co-worker’s TelePrompter error? No, the station said. Andrade bears sole responsibility, and she has suffered enough for the mistake, including lampooning on talk shows and web sites.
Note: Check out my last post for Heat notes from today, and check on the home page for my story previewing Game 3 of Heat-Celtics.