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Essay: Mad Men and the NBA, A Study in Character Significance

March 26, 2012 Leave a comment

In case you weren’t already aware, Mad Men’s 5th season premiered last night. What most consider to be in the conversation for greatest program in television’s storied history, this show’s long awaited return has created a transcendent buzz among pretty much everyone who enjoys engaging in popular culture related discussion. And for all the right reasons. Aside from the dapper wardrobes, nostalgic atmosphere, and, of course, the drinking of multiple Sidecars before lunch, this show is most beloved for the unpredictability and richness inhabited by each and every character (even the young Bobby Draper, who I’m positive will have his own spin-off series green lit by Fox in at least three years’ time). Watching them co-exist within the confines of an office atmosphere—something almost everyone can relate to—places us both back in time and inside the television.

The game of basketball is really cool, but the NBA’s characters are what make the league so undeniably singular. Just as there is one Don Draper, there is one LeBron James. There will never be another of either. We watch the NBA for the same reasons as Mad Men. Both are unpredictable entertainment at its peak. Both have us re-watching broadcasts in an attempt to pick up subtle nuances we may have missed. We strive to know as much about both sets of characters as humanly possible, and the only difference (albeit, kind of a huge one) is that one reality is based in fiction while the other is all too real.

I’ve decided to take eight NBA players and compare them to seven characters from Mad Men primarily because it was fun, but also because in doing so I was able to learn a little bit about each side. While I don’t view anything involving either form of recreational entertainment as “a waste of time”, hopefully reading this article will present you, the reader, with some semblance of the useful insight I personally gained while writing it.

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