Call it a beau geste.
Since Sunday, I’ve read dozens of Breaking Bad reviews, a handful of them creating parallels to the sports world. Dave Zirin of “The Nation” thoroughly and brilliantly compared Walter White to Lance Armstrong.
My NBA-minded perspective is a drop in the bucket. It’s a somewhat empty gesture in terms of the weight it holds, but a gesture nonetheless to a legendary television series.
Drug kingpin Walter White grew into an untouchable, invincible, god-like character. He floated above everyone else, sending Neo-Nazi hit men to solve his problems for him. He doesn’t sound like the kind of guy you’d want to be friends with, yet at the same time you still revere Mr. White, regardless of the sketchiness morality-wise.
Out of the crop of NBA players past and present, to represent Walt I chose the greatest to ever play the game (not LeBron James, not Kobe Bryant): Michael Jordan.
Like Walter White, MJ earned his way to the top. As Walt evolved into an intimidating meth cook from a high school chemistry teacher, MJ evolved into the G.O.A.T. of the NBA after being knocked to the lowly JV squad his sophomore year of high school.
Walt forever glared at Elliot Schwartz, who essentially stole his multi-million dollar idea in Grey Matter industries. MJ envied the sophomore rival who took his Varsity team spot.
Then, there are the branding similarities. Michael Jordan developed the undying Jordan line, as Walter White developed his signature pure blue meth.
Both of them even had sidekicks who served as their shadows. Scottie Pippen backed MJ, and Jesse Pinkman did the same for Walt. Both Pippen and Pinkman kick ass toward the end. But unfortunately for Pippen, it hurt his image as he barely escaped charges for allegedly pushing a man in a Malibu restaurant fight in August, leaving the man unconscious. For Jesse, it was in light of a sweet revenge as he laid a beat down on Todd Alquist.
Jordan and White were clever and calculated in their movements. Post-retirement, MJ admitted he would take shots at players when he knew the refs weren’t looking. As for Walt, he managed to sneak around behind his DEA officer brother-in-law’s back for ages.
Now step back and appreciate the hero-to-villain plot lines that make up their lives. Neither of them rounded out their careers loved by all, and their arrogance tainted their personas (see MJ hall of fame speech and how many victims Walt terrorized).
Despite the flaws and imperfections, Walt and MJ are cemented as bona fide legends in their respective games. Everyone dons the classic Bulls apparel as a nod to MJ, and as for Walt, have you seen how many people walk around in Heisenberg shirts?
As sports fans still thrive off reliving Jordan’s epic moments, I’d like to think T.V. fans will be sitting on the edge of their seats replaying Breaking Bad episodes in 20 years.
As published in the Pepperdine University student publication, the Graphic.
Note: “kick ass” was edited to “kick butt” for print publication — the Graphic stays classy