National presence

Henderson native Tate Frazier has rejoined The Ringer and resides in Los Angeles.

HENDERSON — Tate Frazier browsed around an El Paso Blockbuster in 2015 — halfway through his journey from the borders of Henderson to a seemingly different world in Los Angeles — when he received a phone call that would unknowingly alter his career path.

As he ventured west for a production and editorial internship with ESPN, Bill Simmons, founder of Grantland, had been let go, leaving a cloud of questions around Frazier’s future. He would go on to join the revamped Grantland crew before ESPN’s David Jacoby prompted him with a task that would open doors for his future: each Friday he would make the trek to Simmons’ home to return his belongings from ESPN headquarters.

As the two bonded over stories regarding the defunct American Basketball Association — which Frazier learned about through the legacy of his great-uncle Cotton Clayton — Simmons would soon begin plotting how the recent college graduate from Henderson could be a part of his new business endeavor.

Less than two weeks later, Frazier became the first employee of The Ringer, a newly-formed sports and pop culture website and podcast network, as a producer for “The Bill Simmons Podcast.”

Those weekly meetings where Frazier’s Toyota FourRunner acted as a personal UHaul for Simmons unknowingly served as a compass for his future, creating a bond that has lasted through present day.

Frazier, who became a star as the host of “One Shining Podcast,” would grow under the guidance of Simmons before branching out on his own in 2019. He would not only go on to co-host “Titus & Tate” through Fox Sports with now-Barstool employee Mark Titus, but also founded his own digital content company, Figures Network.

The Henderson native also produced “The World of Five Star,” a podcast series focused on Howard Garfinkel and Five-Star Basketball, which was executively produced by LeBron James.

“I had to go prove to myself that I could make things that I’m proud of and it wasn’t just because I was insulated in that universe,” said Frazier. “Being able to leave and start my own production company, launch a show with myself and Titus, I got to actually do the gritty business side of things. I got out on my own and scratched that itch of what I wanted to do to make myself proud and prove that I could exist and operate outside of Bill’s orbit.”

Four years after venturing out from the umbrella of The Ringer, Frazier is experiencing his own LeBron moment, returning home to where it all started despite potential suitors across the sports landscape. As of February 28, “One Shining Podcast” has returned to the airwaves, pioneered by Frazier and producer Kyle Crichton.

The college basketball-centered podcast debuted as the No. 2 sports podcast in the United States a mere two days after its revival.

“It felt like a nice full-circle moment. Bill was like a mentor to me so to have him in my back pocket, behind me, and pushing me, it was the ideal setup,” said Frazier. “There’s a chance that this show could be bigger and better than anything we’ve ever done before. The actual people I’m working with are smart intellectuals that I want to be around and that will make me better as a personality and a person.”

Instead of representing two people while under the direction of Westwood One, Frazier now gets to represent himself in a situation that checks all of the boxes. College basketball icons Ian Eagle and Jay Bilas have joined Frazier in recent weeks, highlighting his true influence and prominence in the sports world.

Surrounded by stars and names he grew up either idolizing or emulating, Frazier has to reflect back to his roots to truly recognize how far he’s come.

His earliest memory of the true allure of sports came in 1998, as Frazier, eyes glued to the television, witnessed Michael Jordan sink a game-winning shot against the Utah Jazz in Game Six of the NBA Finals, clinching the second three-peat for the Chicago Bulls.

Five years later as a 10-year old growing up in Vance County, Frazier received a first-hand glimpse of the world of basketball in the Hoop State. Frazier and his family, including the then-N.C. High School Athletic Association all-time leading scorer Cotton Clayton, traveled to Eastern Alamance High School to witness JamesOn Curry surpass the scoring mark. As Clayton amassed 2,758 points at Zeb Vance High, his connection to the hardwood in North Carolina sparked Frazier’s interest.

There was a connective tissue between sports, which he was immersed in, and the people in his life.

“Basketball felt like this big grand mystery and you put the puzzle pieces together,” said Frazier. “Luckily, there were a lot of pieces in the state of North Carolina.”

Coupling Clayton’s impact and status amongst the state’s greats with the Frazier family’s legacy at the University of North Carolina, it felt like a perfect marriage for the 2011 Northern Vance High graduate.

Frazier would attend school in Chapel Hill, majoring in broadcast journalism at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

“When you’re watching Michael Jordan as a kid and you know he went to North Carolina and your parents went to North Carolina, you get indoctrinated into the allure of Carolina basketball,” said Frazier.

Following his experience as a Tar Heel, Frazier credited his upbringing in Henderson with helping him feel comfortable moving across the country, but also in relating to athletes from all walks of life.

Frazier referenced his personal relationship with Suns’ star Kevin Durant and how when producing shows under Simmons, the two could relate to one another. Durant’s hometown in Prince George’s County had parallels to that of Henderson, creating a foundation between the former five-star recruit and the valedictorian from Vance County.

Earlier this month, Frazier celebrated his 30th birthday and returned home to Henderson. Frazier attended the regular season finale in Chapel Hill and reflected on where his journey began and where it’s taken him today, over 2,500 miles away to Los Angeles.

A Blockbuster and Northern Vance High School, two extinct institutions that bring forth nostalgia when reminisced upon, were the site of important lessons and decisions in Frazier’s career and upbringing.

From roaming the hallways as a Viking to roaming the California coast at Venice Beach, Frazier remembers where he started and the small-town in North Carolina that shaped who he is today.

“There’s so much good character and great people in Henderson. I feel very fortunate to have grown up in a real place like Henderson,” said Frazier. “I personally believe it’s a place that has a special quality about it. I love Henderson. It’s home and it’s helped me become who I am today.”

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