5 Lessons from today’s NBA Finals Media Day

3 Jun

By Dave Brooks

The international media descended on the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Wednesday, subjecting players from both the Lakers and the Celtics to a frenzied search for deeper meaning and easily compressible story-lines.

For a newcomer, Media Day can be scary and nerve-wrecking for the newbie reporter. Yes, this was my first year attending a pro sports media day, but I quickly picked up a few rules and bits of advice to help future journalists. Help me, to help you help yourself.

Tip 1: Learn the narrative

Every series has its own dramatic undertones. Lakers versus Celtics basically explains itself. So when you’re sitting there, interviewing Jordan Farmer or Nate Robinson, you can always rely on a generic question like “What’s it like to be participating in such a famous championship rivalry?” They will undoubtedly tell you that they don’t worry about past series, “and they’re just focused on winning right now.” That’s just an invitation to ask the same question, just worded differently. Pause, then say something like “What’s the history of these two teams mean to you?”

Tip 2: Avoid being part of the comedy show

At all one of these events, there’s some idiot trying to ask ridiculous questions for his TV show. In this case, it was Guillermo from Jimmy Kimmel asking Ron Artest if he wanted to go see Sex and the City II with him. Ok, yes, that is pretty funny. But try not to have any part of this freak show. Smile politely, even awkwardly, when Guillermo asks Rasheed Wallace to hold his microphone because his hand is getting tired. Nothing good can come from this for you.

Tip 3: Identify the good guys and the bad guys

By bad guys, we mean the players who outwardly hate reporters for a whole swath of reasons. By good guys, we mean players like Big Baby Davis and Derek Fisher, who can’t help but be nice, even though they probably secretly hate you too. Well not you in particular. Just the idea of you. Ron Artest really has nothing nice to say to the media, while Kevin Garnett likes to answer complex questions with as few words as possible. Here’s how most of Garnett’s interview went:

Reporter 1: Do you think you guys need to out muscle the Lakers in this series?

Garnett: I think we need to beat them in the series.

Reporter 2: What’s the hardest part of the Finals?

Garnett: Doing these interviews.

Reporter 3: How do your big men stack up against the Laker’s big men?

Garnett: They’re both tall.

Reporter 4: What’s your strategy going in to Game 1, knowing that you’re on the road?

Garnett: Our strategy is to win.

That’s a lot of material there in those four answers. Maybe a long feature, maybe a series of romance novels.

Tip 4: Reporters are treated equal, but some are just more equal

Media Day is the one time when the LA Time’s Bill Plaschke is treated the same as a reporter from a coupon book. All the reporters are unleashed at the same time, and on media days, contacts and networking doesn’t really matter. If you can shove your way to the front of the booth and stick a microphone in Lamar Odom’s face and ask (for the 10th time) if Khloe Kardashian is pregnant, then you might as well call yourself J.A. Adande and book a spot on Pardon the Interruption.

Tip 5 Associate with foreign media

Ok, I’m not going to give away all the secrets to scoring a press pass to the Finals, but if you’re associated with a foreign news agency, especially one from a giant Asian country, then you’re golden. NBA Commissioner David Stern is obsessed with making basketball an international game, so really any foreign media outlet will get an approval. The kid next to me was a student at Devry, but he had some family ties to a newspaper in Indonesia. That’s at least worth a spot in the press box.

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