On his podcast, former Portland Trail Blazers player Channing Frye discussed the GOAT debate, and why Michael Jordan wouldn’t be as great in today’s NBA.
Sunday night may mark the season finale of ESPN’s The Last Dance, but the raging dialogue around Michael Jordan and his status as the greatest to ever play continues to roll on. Former Portland Trail Blazers role player Channing Frye greased the skids on the debate, when he offered his take on NBC Sports Northwest’s ‘Talkin Blazers with Channing Frye.
Frye, alongside NBC Sports Northwest radio host Dan Sheldon, entertained the thought of how Jordan’s lack of transferable skills to this modern-day, 3-point-happy NBA should penalize him in the greatest of all-time debates. The talented former stretch-four offered this take:
"“He only had really one job. And that was to just score. And he did that at an amazing, amazing rate. But I don’t feel like his way of winning then would translate to what it is now.Guys wouldn’t want to play with him. Right? I think you have to adjust and adapt, and to say that Jordan would average 50? No, he wouldn’t. Everyone would double team him.”"
In his own era, Jordan averaged 30.1 points per game, en route to an NBA-record ten scoring titles. That number skyrocketed to 33.4 points a night in the postseason on near-identical efficiency.
Frye’s sure to conjure a debate with this assessment. He doubled down on his belief that LeBron James was the No. 1 player to ever play, and that if rings are the be-all, end-all, Bill Russell deserves the credit.
The name “DeMar DeRozan” snuck its way into the discussion, when thinking about how guards of similar stature dominate the game from the midrange area, a calling card for Jordan as his athleticism slowly diminished.
Frye’s take in some ways was fresh and objective. You generally don’t get matter-of-fact soundbites of that strength in this generation. Playing devil’s advocate, he did get to experience James’ firsthand greatness, though; Frye was an underrated contributor to two unforgettable Cleveland Cavaliers teams, one of which overcame a 3-1 deficit to win an NBA championship in 2016.
That’s perhaps a major part of his argument, but he said he also believed that, as it strictly relates to Jordan, people would view his score-first mentality in the same unfairly-negative light in the same way they view James Harden’s style of play.
"“James Harden averaged 50 (actually 43.6 points per game) for a month and nobody cared. Like, everyone’s like ‘Oh, those are bad shots.’ But like, people like to argue without looking at the two eras respectively. Like, Jordan was the greatest of his era. He took down some of the greatest teams in the history of the game, but he could not translate into this game.”"
The last of his potentially-controversial takes came when he made note that Jordan didn’t necessarily win anything until the Detroit Pistons became greybeards, and had worn down after running the show in the Eastern Conference in the post-Bird years. Isiah Thomas — who later drafted Frye as the GM of the New York Knicks in 2005 — had 857 games and 31,506 NBA minutes on his legs by the time Chicago finally stepped up to the challenge. Something to think about.
The everlasting debate between Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant or whomever else isn’t one that’s likely to see its end play out. But subplots and takes like Frye’s certainly stir the pot a bit.
The rest of the podcast sees Frye discuss his thoughts on a potential NBA return and some of his off-the-court party fun with players of the past, among other topics. The entire half-hour discussion is well worth the listen, as is anything with the man nicknamed “The Buffet of Goodness.” It can be found wherever podcasts are available. Here’s the link to that.