As the final episode of one of the best shows in the history of television, Breaking Bad, gets set to begin, it got me thinking about the origins of the Miami Heat on the eve of what could be their final year together. The Heat are a dynasty – any team that gets to the finals three consecutive years and is a pretty big threat to take a three peat – definitely one of the best teams of all time.
Yet when they came together, it was under very different circumstances. People hated them; and more specifically, people hated LeBron. He was clearly the best player in the world and instead of fighting to bring Cleveland a title, he tried to take the easy way out by teaming up with Wade and Bosh and creating a super team in Miami. What has become lost now that the Heat are two time champions is the fact that LeBron needed that move to Miami in order to win the title and get into contention for the GOAT. Like Walter White, it is now clear that he needed to break bad.
Come back with me now, to the origins of Breaking Bad, and the central concept that we have partially ignored for most of the show’s run (warning: major spoilers to follow, obviously!)
At the outset of the series, Walter White was a middle aged man who was toiling away far below his immense potential. He was locked in debt and had no way of truly providing for his family. Then the cancer, no chance of survival and the radical decision to actually use his prodigious and dormant chemistry skills to make meth and build an ambitious criminal empire. Walter White then, did not become all that could be and reach his full potential until he made the seemingly shocking decision to break bad. Some people struggle to find themselves, but what the show is truly telling us is that few of us have the guts to find our best self – even if the best person we could be is truly evil. The moment when Walt finally and irreconcilably turns is very startling and stark in its brutality and in many ways we literally see it crashing down upon his for the rest of the series (both literally and figuratively). He is a man who will do whatever it takes to be the best, and as he makes clear: “I am not in the drug business, I am in the empire business”. The performance of Bryan Cranston as Walter White is the pinnacle of television acting, he has won as many Emmy’s as LBJ has MVP trophies.
LeBron, on the other hand had to break bad by getting away from his image as the savior of Cleveland sports. All his career we believed that he was one thing, a good guy, and then in one, startling moment he showed us he was not. He made “the decision” and at the end of his first season in Miami it all came crashing down upon him when he collapsed in the finals. The team was reviled and every game they played became a playoff like atmosphere. LeBron played angry, and in the season’s most thorough domination, handedly destroyed MVP Derrick Rose (at times being the primary defender responsible for shutting him down in the last couple of minutes). In order to become the player we all expected him to be, the man who needed to find out exactly what it takes to win a title the hard way, the unstoppable player who can do anything on the court – he had to go to Miami. Everything that has followed: the two titles, the MVP’s, the 27 game winning streak and two of the greatest performances of all time (Game 6 Boston and Game 7 San Antonio; ironically both described as “serial killer” like performances) was an extension of one moment spiraling outwards.
LeBron had to break bad to reach his full potential and as with Walter White we are seeing the effects of his empire building first hand.