Cavaliers’ Channing Frye Discusses What it Takes to Survive in the NBA
As the game gets younger each year, putting in continued efforts and staying on the grind only keeps getting harder for veterans as the quickly approach the finish line.
The NBA, like any professional sport is based around the ideology of the survival of the fittest, and for a player like the 13-year veteran Channing Frye, the need to evolve and continue to find a niche is the difference between remaining on a roster and being left behind. When the athleticism slowly disappears and father time creeps up, it is the endless hard work and sacrifice that allows players to stay ten, 15-years in the league.
“There’s a point when talent and expectations meet,” Says Frye. “Now, with these guys being a little bit younger. four, five years, but even then they’re 23. When I was coming out, kids were being seniors. Kids were like 26, 27. Everybody in the NBA has some kind of talent and skill. So when you don’t keep up with the expectations of being able to do this on a daily basis. It’s just a grind. So staying in is tough. Getting in, you might get in just because you’ve got a lot of hype behind you, but you won’t stay in because you don’t prove yourself every night.”
For players like Frye, it has become second nature to keep pushing forward and to maintaining the same mentality. For Frye it starts with the love of the process and the game itself and it manifests into everything he does on and off the court. While many names from his draft class have faded away and are but NBA after-thoughts, Frye continues to hold a necessary position on one of game’s most elite teams. Stars like Deron Williams, Charlie Villanueva, Martell Webster, Andrew Bynum, Sean May, Rashad McCant – all lottery picks much like Frye in the 2005 NBA Draft are no where to be seen. Meanwhile Frye has been able to reinvent himself to still be a valuable commodity in a faster, more athletic NBA game.
“I think it first starts with a love of the process of having to be on the grind on a daily basis,” Says the 34-year old Cavaliers forward. “I think everything that you do, whether it is what you eat, how much sleep you get, what you put into your body, how you approach practice, how you approach the game, is all a mentality of how can I get better today and how can I be better not only for myself but be better than that next guy who’s doing exactly the same thing which is crazy.”
For veterans like Frye, who have virtually seen it all in their 10-plus years in the NBA, it is easy to tell who will stick around and who will fade away as the grind of the NBA lifestyle only amps up.
“There’s been a lot of guys who have been extremely talented and just didn’t have that drive to put in enough work and to be able to translate it and turn into a good pro,” recounts Frye. “You know people see the cars and this and that, but I think people don’t see what the sacrifices the guys have made throughout their lives. And a lot of people don’t see the sacrifices that guys have made throughout their lives and a lot of people mention going to parties in high school and stuff like that, but it’s like regular people, normal people just go to school and that’s stressful enough, but when you think about college kids who have to maintain grades and go to practice, and go to class, and watch film, and you put that kind of stress not only the mental, but on your physical”.
While granted, Frye has put a lot of work in staying fit and always ready to enter the game whenever his number is called, most importantly, he understands the game and the role he has to fill. To remain in the NBA for as many years, players must do exactly that. See where the needs are and fill those voids.
“You look at a lot of guys on this team who have talent and who just have niches,” Explains Frye. “Like Kyle [Korver] is arguably one of the best shooters in NBA history, now is he athletic? He figured out his niche and he said I’m going to be the best at this in the world. Continued to work and to grow and took advantage of the opportunity. Now, look at him, he’s like fourth all-time in NBA three-pointers, which is pretty crazy.”
For Frye, it started back in high school, specifically in ninth grade where he understood that basketball was more than just a hobby and it was time to make the necessary sacrifices to strive to one day cracking the NBA.
“End of ninth grade that’s when I was about 6’7’’-6’8’’,” Says Frye. “I did a lot of different activities, but I thought i just wanted to be really good. That’s when it clicked inside my mind that it’s not just fun anymore, it’s something that I love. The way I was evolving as a player, if I worked on something, I got better at it. Something that I was able to do on the court. So that was it for me and then again, I was a late bloomer so I didn’t really think I would be able to make the NBA until my senior year and be successful,but 13 years later, I’m still here.”
While it has taken a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to remain in the league for 13-years, becoming the eighth overall pick in the 2005 NBA draft was a challenge in itself and for Frye, he had the right foundation to realize the dream.
“My parents definitely influenced me and they told me if you want to do it, then do it” Says Frye. “You use the criticisms that other people tell you. Take it as a grain of salt, but use it as a coal for the fire. My dad had me play against older kids and when I get whooped he was like, what was one thing you remember? Well, I’m not strong enough, so I do push ups. So that was a motivating thing that played into my routine. So when you wake up, you do 25 push ups, do some dips, some pull ups, and then you can either get shots up before and work on this, so I could do that before school, go through school have practice, then shoot after practice, made sure I lifted, made sure I gained some weight, I was really skinny as a kid. So those type of things. My days were like 12 hour days, but it was worth it.”
While he is not a superstar by any stretch of the imagination, Frye is a veteran and a true professional and with continued drive and hard work, he continues to be a very important part of the Cleveland Cavaliers roster.