Dirk Nowitzki said Saturday that Dwyane Wade and LeBron James were "a little childish, a little ignorant" in a video that appears to show them mocking the Mavericks star's recent illness.
Wade said he really did cough and turned it into a generic joke because cameras were rolling. He and James blamed others for trying to make a big deal out of it.
The video taken by the CBS affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth shows Wade walking alongside James following a shootaround the morning of Game 5 of the NBA finals. Wade coughs, then says, "Did you hear me cough? Think I'm sick."
Nowitzki was coughing and sniffling throughout Game 4 because of a sinus infection that also left him with a 101-degree fever. He played anyway and led Dallas to a victory over the Miami Heat that evened the series at two games each. The Mavs also won Game 5, sending them into Game 6 on Sunday night with a chance to be crowned champions.
The video of Wade's cough spread across the Internet on Friday, when both teams were traveling. So it became a popular topic at news conferences Saturday.
"First of all, it wasn't fake coughing," Wade said. "I actually did cough. And with the cameras being right there, we made a joke out of it because we knew you guys were going to blow it up. You did exactly what we knew. We never said Dirk's name. I think he's not the only one in the world who can get sick or have a cough. We just had fun with the cameras being right in our face about the blowup of the incident, and it held to be true. You blew it up."
Said James: "If you guys want to feed into everything that not only myself or D-Wade or the Miami Heat do, I think that's a non-issue. There's bigger issues in this series than that."
The video clip runs 26 seconds. After Wade coughs, he and James laugh and tug their collars over their nose and mouth, as Nowitzki did during his interview following Game 4.
Nowitzki clearly didn't see anything humorous about it. He considered them implying he may not have been sick.
"I've been in this league for 13 years. I've never faked an injury or an illness before," Nowitzki said. "But (the video) happened. It's over to me. It's not going to add anything extra to me. This is the NBA finals. If you need an extra motivation, you have a problem."