The NBA vet turned media maven chops it up with Boardroom to unpack load management, KD to the Suns, and his best Gilbert Arenas story.
Channing Frye‘s got jobs. He’s got jokes, too.
Running his Chosen Family wine label by day, the father of four and 2016 NBA champion keeps hoops fans howling at night by moonlighting in the media. From appearing on NBA TV to hosting the Road Trippin’ Podcast, Frye’s found a fun third career that plays perfectly off his first gig.
Having hooped professionally for over a dozen seasons after ascending for four years under the legendary Lute Olsen, the Phoenix native and former Sun has no problem getting a rise out of an audience — even if it’s at his own expense.
“I got more texts about KD going [to Phoenix] than me when I got traded!” Frye told Boardroom.
Following a deep dive into his Chosen Family wine business and philanthropic ventures with The Roots Fund, Channing was generous enough to share insight on his sensational side gig that is covering the League.
Keep reading for stories about his college career, basketball’s boom of international talent, and why today’s NBA is better than it’s ever been.
IAN STONEBROOK: March is finally here. Looking back, what are your best memories off the court from your time in Tucson at the University of Arizona?
CHANNING FRYE: I’ll tell you this, man. Even today? I’m on U of A text exchanges. Sometimes I’m astonished by not only the success of all the guys, no matter what they’re doing, but their approachability and sense of family.
Even players that I played with like Isaiah Fox are coaching. Brett Brielmaier is coaching. All these guys within the U of A coaching realm like Luke Walton. I have to say before he passed away, I think Coach Olsen sorta knew it. But I think he’d be really proud of where everyone is making sure that they stay around the game.
IS: What moments stand out from playing at Arizona under Lute?
CF: It’s always been a huge sense of pride to be part of that family, but the best memory I had? Probably my freshman year. We were down 23 and it was a Sunday on CBS, this big game against UCLA. We came back and I had just dunked to go up one or tie it. I was a skinny little thing and I started flexing! And the crowd went crazy.
At the McHale Center, during my years, they only rushed the floor six times. And they rushed the floor of that game. So that was huge. That was my best memory.
IS: On Road Trippin’ I’ve heard about the paintball guns on campus, I’ve heard about turning off all the auditorium lights in the middle of a huge college class. Give me your best Gilbert Arenas story that I haven’t heard.
CF: People hear all those stories, but Gilbert? Next to Andre Iguodala, Gil’s of the top three most talented players ever to come out of there. And it wasn’t just talent that made him great.
My freshman year, I got done with high school. By May 1, I was on campus taking summer school so I could lift and get used to college. They told me I had to redshirt. I said, ‘You know? Fuck y’all! I’m gonna come here and work.’ So I played this guy Dennis Latimore all the time.
Dennis was God’s gift to basketball. He was 6-9, 240 lbs — just huge. 240-degree dunks, a McDonald’s All-American.
Me? I’m 6’10, 200 lbs! So we’d lift, we’d shoot, we’d play 1-on-1, and he’d bust my ass.
I’d go back to the gym at night just to work on something. Sometimes there were no lights on, but every time I came back? Gilbert freaking Arenas was in there whether the lights were on or off.
Shooting for hours, doing ball handling drills, defensive slides. All the things that you needed to do? He obsessed about those things.
Gilbert Arenas had the greatest work ethic I’ve ever seen of anyone when he really locked in. I’m going there at night and this dude has a rack of balls and is just shooting in the dark — but not missing!
He was like, ‘Yo, if I could make them in the dark, what do you think I’m doing in the light?’ I was like, ‘What? I don’t know if that’s good for your eyes.’
But seeing his career and seeing Andre as a workhorse? They’re goofballs and they’re pranksters, but the business side of them or most of the guys at Arizona? It was ridiculous. It teetered on psychotic.
They were just good dudes. It was never about numbers, it was about letters. Ws and Ls are all that matter. If you’re on a winning team? The numbers gonna take care of itself.
IS: You’re very familiar with Phoenix and the Suns. From the arrival of Mat Ishbia to the trade for Kevin Durant, how do you see the franchise doing moving forward?
CF: As a Phoenician, that’s huge for the city. We’ve gotten close a bunch of times, but I think starting from the top down was needed. Putting Mr. Ishbia with James Jones, Monty Williams, this team, and the vets? It’s the right thing to do. It sends a wave to the other free agents that we want to win now.
I think this is a great situation for KD because he’s on a team that wants to win. James Jones doesn’t beat around the bush about anything when it comes to communication. He’s won everywhere he’s gone. He’s a champion.
When you look at the makeup of this team? They’re a great build of youth that’s gonna develop like DeAndre Ayton, and you have room for veterans to come in and be put in special places. Who do you double-team now?
IS: That is a fantastic question.
CF: When’s the last time KD just got a regular spot-up shot? With that screen and roll with like DeAndre Ayton and Chris Paul? If you put them on one side, what do you do? You can’t switch because DeAndre finishes very well around the rim and Chris Paul’s gonna get to his shot. If they’re just standing? They can bring the ball up the court and everyone can go to their spot.
So for me, I like all this. I think this it’s good for KD. Regardless if he wins or loses, I think this is gonna be a city he’s gonna really embrace. He always loves basketball, but I think he’s gonna like living in this city. I think he’s gonna love playing in this situation almost more than everywhere else he’s been.
People forget, the Suns were the fifth-winningest team up until a couple of years ago ever in the history of the NBA. There were some years where we had some doo-doo-ass teams, but that wasn’t right. It didn’t feel right in the city.
IS: Most fans feel the game has become more skilled today while many would lean that the game was more physical in the past. From your standpoint, where do you think the game is across eras in regard to IQ?
CF: This game? It’s not even close. Here’s why it’s not even close: how old is Jayson Tatum?
IS: He turns 25 this month.
CF: Jayson Tatum is fucking 25 years old and he’s been in the NBA for seven years! Back in the ’90s, Jayson Tatum would only have been in the league for three years, so he’d be de-learning college basketball, which is antiquated and does not transfer to the NBA. Nobody, and you can tell me if I’m wrong, has dominated college basketball since maybe Anthony Davis and has transferred that over to the NBA.
We have seen guys go one year and done, and maybe they lose in a first or second round to a team full of 23- or 24-year-old guys with a coach where nobody’s guarding somebody. They’re in the zone the whole time, the court is smaller, and it doesn’t transfer.
So think about the information that is available to the game right now? Think about the players. Think about these kids and how they are growing up. The game is more international than it ever has been. We’ve got people from I think 52 different countries, which is crazy, where before you had maybe eight to ten countries back in the ’90s or early ’00s.
So yes, it was more physical because it was less skill. The greatest skill players were your top 20 guys. The best skill players now? I would go down the list and number 40 today in the league might still be an elite skilled player.
The spacing in today’s game? A tweener like Scottie Pippen or Grant Hill was weird. Was he a two? Was he a four? Kevin Durant is freaking 7 foot tall! Who’s guarding that? LeBron is 6’9, who’s guarding that? Joel Embiid is 7-2 … and he plays like a two-guard! Jokic is 7-1 and leads the league in assists and triple-doubles!
IS: Not much you can do about any of that!
CF: So to me, comparing eras? You’re doing no justice to people in the ’90s. They did amazing with what they had access to. They did not have access to the training facility, they didn’t have access to the airplanes, the food, the dietitians, all this stuff. That’s why they’re getting hip replacements, knee replacements. The NBA said, “For us to take care of our thoroughbreds? We need to play the game this way.”
Guys are gonna sit out until something happens, which is a work in progress, and I don’t agree with them all the time. But if you want somebody to play 10+ years and they got a swollen knee? Do you want for them to all of a sudden tear their ACL? Think about if Derrick Rose, Larry Bird, or Grant Hill was put under this same protective scrutiny: how many more years would they have played?
IS: Career longevity may be the best availability.
CF: And that’s what the people want. You’re gonna complain about one game, but you’re getting six more years, right? ‘Oh, well he didn’t play this game.’ Well, because he has plantar fasciitis and we don’t want his foot to tear off! But we fix it and he comes back to the next game. Today’s game is absolutely the best it has ever been because it is positionless and it is almost impossible to guard.
It’s gonna take a defensive savant to come in and really uplift the game defensively. But kids wanna work on offense. So that’s why the offense is so much better than defense, right? Nobody goes in a gym, puts the ball away, and does defensive slides. If you look at today’s teams, name a team…
IS: The Hawks.
CF: The Hawks, okay. Let’s say you’re a small guy and you’ve gotta guard Trae Young and this is who I’ve grown up guarding. Boom, first screen and roll, your guy says, “Switch!” Now you’re on John Collins. Okay, “Switch!” Now you’re on DeAndre Hunter.
Let’s say you do a good job. You front him and he doesn’t get the ball. But he’s an uber-elite athlete, so how do you guard that? Do you put two people on the ball and then allow a big man who’s a very good passer to pass to Clint Capella who’s one of the best finishers in the league? Or do you give up the worst shot in basketball, an open 3-pointer?
Do you wanna put five defensive people out there? You can’t because then you can’t score. So you have to wait for the defense to come to the offense.
That also comes from strength. These guys are 18, 19, or 20 versus Giannis who’s built like damn Hercules! What are you gonna do? Even if you’re physically there he’s gonna run through you and break your clavicle!
IS: A business decision any sane person would prefer not to make.
CF: Where do you double-team Luka from? A 6-9 point guard? You see what happens: he’s just getting wherever he want to go.
If you double you allow a guy to either get a layup or a butt-naked 3-pointer and you’re gonna lose every time.
So what defense are you putting out there for Luka? Until the playoffs come and you can really get physical and hone in habits? You can’t scout for Luka one night and then Jokic the next night and say, ‘Oh, this scheme is gonna work.’
And then when do you practice that new scheme? The day in between or the day after when your guys play 40 minutes a night? And then you’re gonna get ’em in the gym and go, ‘Hey, what we did yesterday, forget that. Now we’re gonna practice this and I want you to be an expert at it tomorrow versus two-time MVP.’
It’s just unbelievable. It’s ridiculous. Where do you double KD at? Before he got traded, before he got hurt, they were doubling him at half-court! That was unheard of! But if you don’t double-team him at half-court, you give him a running start.
IS: Being from Phoenix, what was it like the day that big trade went down?
CF: You know, I got more texts about KD going there than me when I got traded! The people in Phoenix want to win. They want winners, they want good basketball to be played. You’re gonna see that place packed. The fans are rabid.
And now that KD’s there? It’s gonna be explosive every single game.
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