Channing Frye is partial to former Cavaliers teammate LeBron James.
It sure shows when Frye discusses Michael Jordan’s style.
Not just Jordan’s leadership style (which is getting relitigated due to ESPN’s “The Last Dance” documentary on the Bulls). But also Jordan’s PLAYING STYLE. Michael freaking Jordan’s playing style.
Frye on the “Talkin’ Blazers” podcast:
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.
Where to start?
Though complimentary, Frye’s assessment of Jordan’s scoring is far too dismissive and reductive. When pace slows and defense tightens deep in the playoffs – the most important and most difficult situation for offenses – Jordan still scored with an incredible combination of volume and efficiency. He was a masterful scorer.
And that wasn’t Jordan’s only job! He played elite defense. He also passed pretty well and helped on the glass. Jordan was such a great scorer, that overshadowed the peripheral skills in his well-rounded game.
LeBron has a more diverse skill set than Jordan. But Jordan excelled in the most critical ways and deployed his skills with ruthless precision. That surpassed LeBron’s wider array of tools.
Jordan also led his teammates (yet another job). His bullying style wasn’t for everyone, even at the time. But Bulls general manager Jerry Krause did a great job of finding talented players who’d fit with Jordan.
Plenty of current players could handle playing with Jordan and would be better for it. Would a larger share of modern players resist Jordan’s methods in the player-empowerment era? Probably. But a smart team could build a roster of players who’d follow Jordan.
LeBron’s leadership style isn’t for everyone, either. When he joined the young Lakers, his new teammates had to adapt to playing with a veteran superstar ready to win – an astute point made by… [checks notes]… Channing Frye. And how did that go? Not well.
Building an optimal team requires the right mix of leaders and followers. Some types of leadership work with some followers, and others don’t. Same in Jordan’s day, same now.