Breaking Bad, Meet the NBA

AMC’s Breaking Bad, in my not-so-humble opinion, is the premiere television series currently airing. There is no show that makes the seven days between episodes more agonizingly long than Breaking Bad. I first started watching it as Season 3 was presently airing, and it took me just 3 days to fly through all the episodes I had missed. I skipped class and called off work multiple times during that three day stretch just to get my fix. I was hooked.

A quick look at IMDb’s Highest Rated TV Series with at least 5,000 votes and I can be assured that I’m not alone in my convictions. According to the voters, Breaking Bad ranks number 6 all time behind some very solid shows like Planet Earth, The Wire, Game of Thrones and Arrested Development. I have no qualms with any of those being ranked so high; it’s essentially splitting hairs among them (however, while I feel GoT is a great show, I don’t think it’s an all-time great).

I won’t argue that Breaking Bad is the best show ever, but I think an argument can be made.

The characters are what make Breaking Bad so captivating. It’s the evolution they go through as the series and consequences progress. It’s the constant battles with morality. It’s how we end up sympathizing with seemingly evil and absolutely morally corrupted characters. It’s so, so, so much more. There are layers upon layers of reasons why the show is so fascinating to me, and while it teeters between the realms of plausible and highly implausible, the depth and realism of the characters force you to shrug that all off.

Comparing a former chemistry teacher turned methamphetamine kingpin to an NBA superstar might be a stretch, but the complex undertones of these characters personalities make it possible. Obviously this will be an inherently flawed undertaking, especially because we certainly don’t know as much about today’s NBA players as we think we do, but there’s enough sample size to draw upon some relatively safe conclusions here.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to losing hours and hours of sleep thinking to myself “who is the NBA’s version of Badger” or “if Derrick Rose were a character in Breaking Bad, who would he be?”. These questions are of the utmost importance. I’ve searched the internet for answers to no avail so I have decided to take the daunting task on myself.


Walter White – Kobe Bryant

“I won” – Walter White

Walter White is such a complex and adaptive character that there exist about a million adjectives to describe him. Take out the meth-producing, the murdering and the pure ruthlessness, and Walt is just like all of us.

Sort of…

It ultimately came down to this for me: Walter White is the star of the show, and Walter White toes the line between doing what is necessary for survival and being a heartless and evil villain. Who fits that mold better than Kobe Bryant? No player is as cold-blooded as Kobe is.

Walter isn’t necessarily a villain – though one could argue that he has evolved into just that – but neither is Kobe. There are more preeminent villains in the NBA at this time, but Kobe still has a little of that evil and villainous manifestation in him.

Walt has evolved into a cold blooded killer who will do anything there is to save himself and, well, to “win”. Anything that gets in his way he will find a way overcome, regardless of what it takes. He will kill, he will poison, he will manipulate and he will concoct elaborate schemes to do so. That’s as “Kobe” as it “Kobe” gets. Kobe is concerned with one thing and one thing only and that’s winning; it doesn’t matter how he gets to the top, he just has to make it there. In many ways Kobe and Walt are the simplest form of instinctual species; all they are concerned with is survival. It’s good old Darwinism: the most fit will survive. It’s their desire to be the best, most powerful and successful people that really are what make them parallels.

These young guys are playing checkers. I’m out there playing chess. – Kobe Bryant

Walt schemes up elaborate, and sometimes bizarre, plans to kill Tuco, Krazy 8, Gale, Gus and anyone else posing as a threat to him. He does so with such a sense of ruthlessness and disregard for anyone besides himself. He intentionally poisoned a little boy in order to get Jesse to be a pawn of his. He’s an evil genius at this point; so manipulative and constantly playing a little game of chess with everyone else in order to pull all the strings. Kobe is an unstoppable offensive player who is able to will those around him to victory. He is focused and calculated; everything with Kobe is meticulous. He is deliberately arrogant. He is a master trash talker. He loves playing mind games, both with his opponents and even his teammates. He is the alpha male.

Kobe is complex, and I’m not sure any of us know who the real Kobe Bryant is. There’s so much mystery and intrigue there, much like Walter.

Oh, and they’re both criminals!

Jesse Pinkman – Caron Butler

Maybe this looks like a bit of a stretch at first glance, but bear with me!

Jesse Pinkman starts off as an undiscerning, uneducated small-time drug dealer/user in Walter’s chemistry class. He was hedonistic, extemporaneous and often found himself in trouble with the law.

Caron Butler suffered a similarly troublesome and unyielding childhood. He started selling drugs at the age of 11. He was arrested more than 10 times before his 15th birthday. It looked as if all that was in store for Butler was a life full of time spent bouncing in and out of jail. That was until a few fortunate breaks and influential role models entered his life. His story is quite fascinating.

While Jesse isn’t quit the rags to riches story that Butler is, they share many parallels. Walter White was to Jesse as basketball was to Caron.

With the help of a local community activist, Jameel Ghuari, Butler was convinced to start playing basketball competitively. Ghuari changed the people Butler associated with, got him to focus on a singular goal, and brought the best out of him. While Walt didn’t pull Jesse out of the drug culture, he helped him get back on his feet, even though it meant diving more deeply into a life of crime.

Butler entered an AAU tournament at Purdue University and lead his team to the tournament tile and MVP honors, beating teams led by future NBA players like Dwyane Wade, Corey Maggette, Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson. After the tournament those around Butler said he was a changed man. Butler asked a local drug dealer for a $5,000 loan to attend a prep school. The drug dealer, James Harris, give him the money “no strings attached” and urged him to get off the streets. UConn’s head basketball coach Jim Calhoun would eventually successfully recruit him to UConn and continued to open up more doors allowing him to have a successful and rewarding life.

Neither really had father figures growing up. Walt helped fill that void with Jesse, and Calhoun and basketball filled that void with Caron.

While both appear to be grimy, tough and unflappable people on the inside, their emotions are as real and powerful as the rest of ours – if not more. Jesse’s emotions overflow on a regular basis and it is often made very obvious how much Jesse loves those that are around him. Butler has been known to show a few moments of pure and unadulterated emotion as well. Upon signing his first huge contract in the NBA, Butler broke down in an emotional and humbling display of appreciation towards Coach Calhoun, a man who, like Walter to Jesse, drastically changed Caron’s life for the better.

Coming here as a freshman, and going through the obstacles I went through in my life, you all inspired me. Coach, the changing point was being under your wing. You coached me like a father, and it means a lot to me to [have] come to this university after so many people had given up on me. That’s why I try to get out there and give back as much as possible.

Skyler White – Derek Fisher

Skyler White is a bitch. She’s very caring, intelligent and savvy, but she’s still a bitch. Now, Derek Fisher isn’t a bitch per se, but he’s had his moments. Derek is a savvy veteran and a heralded leader. While rarely at the forefront of things, Fisher always seems to have his paws involved some how. Whether it’s hitting a clutch shot or his shaky run as president of the NBA Players’ Union, he’s seemingly just always there.

For both of them there is one thing that comes before anything else: family.

Skyler devotes much of her life to caring for her two children. If you haven’t read the story of Derek Fisher and his daughter’s struggles, I suggest you read about it. The parallels might become a bit more obvious…

Saul Goodman – Blake Griffin

Just kidding; Blake Griffin isn’t nearly funny enough…

Saul Goodman – Steve Nash

Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul

Steve Nash is underrated-funny. He doesn’t go out of his way to act funnier than he really is (looking at you Dwight and Blake) but he does like to remind us from time to time. Unlike a lot of today’s stars, Nash’s humor seems real and unforced.

Example 1: Steve reminds us why he’s so in demand, much like Saul.

Example 2: Steve reminds us how cutting edge he is, again, much like Saul.

Example 3: Umm…

Example 4: The most ridiculous man in the world?

At the very least, they’re both great at marketing.

Wayfarer 515: We’re All Victims 

Tiger Trouble? – “Turns out the best defense is still a good offense” – Saul Goodman, not actually talking about Steve Nash

Saul Says: “Sue ‘Em Now”

Oh, and while they’re both quite humorous, they actually are both tremendously competent at their jobs.

Walter White Jr. – Greg Oden/Brandon Roy

All three need crutches to ambulate…

Gus Fring – David Stern

This is obvious as they come. It would be more obvious if I actually thought Stern was a crook like so many people seem to think. I don’t think he is, but nonetheless…

Both are great with the media and manipulating public perception. Both are completely ruthless and drive a real hard bargain. They have the mainstream media and the law in their respective hands. Stern handled the lockout brilliantly. He might not have gotten everything he supposedly said he wanted, but he was able to paint the NBA as a feeble entity that was struggling to make money and stay afloat…and people bought into that. Stern even had me promoting #F*ckDerekFisher hashtags on twitter, because I was so convinced that it was the players sabotaging things and were the real “bad guys”.

They are both prohibitively powerful public figures that can spin anything and everything however they want to spin it. In the end, both are immensely experienced and talented at what they do. They know how to get what they want.

I would have much more fun with this if I bought into conspiracy theories. If there ever was a reason to believe Stern was pure evil, now would be the time…

Mike Ehrmantraut – Kendrick Perkins

KG was too outspoken, loud, emotional and brash. Charles Oakley isn’t still in the league, otherwise he’d be a perfect Mike. Mike is a tough and savvy enforcer, but he’s so much more than just that.

Mike’s the muscle. He’s quiet and calculating. He is seemingly devoid of emotion and compassion on the job, but at home he’s a devoted and compassionate family figure. Beyond everything else, Mike is reliable and trustworthy.

Perkins is the unsung, yet vital, member of his teams (admittedly that claim has become quite debatable recently, but I’ll stubbornly stick to it) . He goes about is business, but isn’t shy to drop the gloves. He’ll do the dirty work and is always willing to scuffle. Perkins isn’t simply a dirty player, he’s just a beast. Perk just quietly goes about his business, and never is eager for the attention nor the spotlight. He will always have your back, that’s for sure.

Badger – Chris Andersen 

They both are white and like drugs. Good enough for me.

Skinny Pete – Derrick Rose

Skinny Pete is illiterate. Derrick Rose might be too…

Badger, Skinny Pete and Walt White

Badger, Skinny Pete and Walt White

Gale Beotticher – No one

If you know of a nerdy libertarian NBA player, who also happens to be a vegan, let me know. I’m pretty sure such a thing does not exist.


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