Like the rest of the sports world, Channing Frye was devastated after hearing news of the fatal helicopter crash involving NBA All-Star Kobe Bryant.
With the one-year anniversary of Bryant’s death approaching on Tuesday, the 13-year NBA veteran and former Portland Trail Blazer is still deeply saddened by the passing of the Los Angeles Lakers legend
“When he passed, that crushed me,” Frye recalled on the Talkin’ Blazers podcast. “I was out at my farm, and I was just walking back and forth. I’m going to my pond and just sitting and being like man, the impact he had on so many people was amazing.”
Bryant was a relentless competitor as Frye came to witness on the court. The 5x NBA champion and 18-time All-Star unknowingly helped Frye retool his approach to facing opponents.
“To compete, there were certain guys in the league I made sure I didn’t have any wine the night before. I made sure I got my 8 hours of sleep. I woke up, stretched, I was watching extra film,” Frye recalled. “He was one of those guys.”
Bryant’s dominance in the Western Conference Finals in 2010 still haunts Frye today. The Lakers superstar averaged 33.7 points in the series while shooting 52.7 percent from the field. Bryant delivered a crushing, final blow to the Suns who were just 96 minutes away from their first NBA appearance in 17 years.
It’s now been 28 years.
Bryant’s dismantling of the 2010 Suns led Frye to light up a cigarette in a dirty dive bar in Phoenix, as he recalled.
“I tell people this, I smoked cigarettes twice in my entire life,” Channing recounted. “After that game, I had to smoke a cigarette, right? Because I was like dang, we just got Kobe’d. It was horrible. We were just sitting there. I was sitting there outside of a bar, a dirty dive bar, a Coors Light and a freakin’ cigarette like ‘damn, Kobe.’”’
As for the Suns, they now have one of the longest non-playoff appearance droughts in franchise history.
The Lakers went to the NBA Finals and eventually earned a second-consecutive title, Bryant’s fifth and final. The Lakers superstar also earned Finals MVP after leading all players in scoring with 28.6 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists.
Bryant altered the game of basketball in his 20 years with the Lakers. He became a five-time NBA Champion, a two-time NBA Finals MVP, and 18-time All-Star, four-time All-Star MVP, 11-time All-NBA First Team, nine-time All-Defensive First Team… the list goes on.
But for Frye, Kobe inspired him to always strive to be better than the day before.
“I never had the opportunity to tell him how much that impacted my career,” Frye explained. “Because then I said, well, if I’m doing this this night, let’s see what I’m doing every other night. How can I prepare better to be the best?”