Follow the author: @Tay_Col 

Channing Frye is one of the most important players lacing up for the Wine and Gold these days. He brings more than a quick release, silky smooth stroke, interior defense and floor spacing majesty. He is THE guy that transformed a roster of stars into a true team.

He began his basketball career in Phoenix Arizona at St. Mary’s High School (how many of these are there?). The highly recruited center committed to nearby University of Arizona and played for the Wildcats from 2001 to 2005. Frye was taken in the first round of the 2005 NBA draft by the New York Knicks and made the All-Rookie first team in the 05-06 season. After that he was moved around the league, spending time in Portland, Phoenix and Orlando.

During the summer of 2012, his career hit a pivotal crossroads. Shortly after a routine health screening with the Suns’ medical staff, Channing was notified that his heart is enlarged. Doctors told him he would never play again. The man himself does a beautiful job of describing the emotional and physical struggles he overcame in his article, Let’s Enjoy This Wonderful French Toast, on ThePlayersTribune.com. His condition forced him to make major changes to his lifestyle, outlook on life, and ultimately made him into a stronger person.

Around the time of the trade that brought Frye to Cleveland, the Cavs were embroiled in drama. Kevin Love wasn’t fitting? Was it Kyrie’s team or LeBron’s? Why make a mid-season coaching change with the best record in the East? We may never know how much of the nonsense was real, fabricated, or somewhere in between. Regardless, questions were bubbling around the Cavaliers.

February 2016, exit Anderson Varejao and enter Channing Frye. His attitude became the catalyst that transformed the team into more than a collection of excellent basketball players. He infused a fresh perspective and was genuinely excited to join a contender. As he said in his Players Tribune article, I was going to enjoy everything.” The stretch-four brought a fun-loving personality and fresh opinions on what it meant to play for a championship challenging team. Maybe that’s what awoke the untapped potential within the Cavs roster? Reminding them that despite all of the pressures that come with playing with the best player in the world, and fighting to bring an NBA championship to Cleveland, basketball is still a game. It’s meant to be fun, and have fun they did.

Frye and fellow Arizona Wildcat, Richard Jefferson, became the locker room jokesters. The duo made Lil Kev into a cult phenomenon which helped Kevin Love settle in at the most critical time. Both Frye and Jefferson made key contributions throughout the playoffs. For Channing, Game 3 against Atlanta when he hit a sizzling seven treys from nine attempts stands out most. But, being a good teammate also means sitting on the bench when the coach says that’s where he needs you. Frye rode the bench for most of the Finals because he didn’t match up well against the Warriors. The reduced playtime didn’t matter to him. When some might have sulked he did the opposite. Instead, Hot Frye was one of the loudest supporters on the bench, cheering on his team every moment of the Finals, and we all know how that turned out.

lil-kev

For all of these reasons and more, Channing Frye is an essential member of the reigning NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers. His play this season continues to show that he’s the glue, the voice, the personality, and THE guy that brings this team together. The mind runs wild with appropriate comparisons to the Cleveland Cavaliers thanks to Channing Frye. This team belongs together like PB&J, mac & cheese, eggs & bacon, spaghetti & meatballs, chips & salsa, and perhaps my favorite, burgers & fryes.

Follow the author: @Tay_Col 

Images via: ESPN.com, WKYC.com

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