When sports fans talk about the greatest athletes that have ever played for New York City teams, Walt “Clyde” Frazier is among them. Referencing basketball, he’s at the top of the list.
Frazier, the New York Knicks color analyst for their games along with play-by-play announcer Mike Breen on the MSG Network, was the former all-star guard that contributed to both of the Knicks championships during the 1969-70 and the 1972-1973 NBA seasons.
One of the greatest post season performances ever is credited to Frazier. Game 7 of the 69-70 season, Frazier led the Knicks to victory, 113-99 over the Los Angeles Lakers, scoring 36 points with 19 assists, 7 rebounds and 6 steals. Frazier was responsible for 74 of the Knicks’ 113 points that night. It may be redundant, but it was one of the greatest Game 7 performances ever.
As prolific as Frazier was at offense, he specialized in and took pride in his ability to defend. His game back then would more than transcend to the game today.
“People don’t play defense today,” Frazier notes. “They would have to pay me for three or four things. Defense, rebounding, scoring, everything, point guard. Cause you don’t have those players that do.
“Look at Harden. He’s putting up a lot of points, but he doesn’t work on the defense. Westbrook, Damian Lillard, Curry. None of these guys are shut down defenders like me. I had to guard Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Earl the Pearl, Nate ‘Tiny’ Archibald, Pistol Pete, all these different guys man, every night. Top 50 players, every night. And I gotta try to hold them to 25 or 30 points. To their average. If not, everybody’s looking at Clyde.
“Now, Harden gets 61, no one is saying, ‘Who’s guarding him?’ Kobe got 62. Nobody said, ‘Who’s guarding him?’ Michael got 55. If Oscar gets that many on me, everybody’s looking at Frazier, what are you doing? You’re supposed to be a defensive specialist.”
Frazier, from Atlanta, Georgia, a graduate of Southern Illinois, the oldest of his parent’s nine children, turns 74 at the end of this month. Unlike many players not from the New York metropolitan area, “Clyde”—as he is affectionately called by Breen, friends and fans—embraced the city. There were “Clyde” sightings at exclusive events, popular clubs and even uptown after hour spots. He’d even ride the local trains to the game, leaving his Rolls Royce parked where he lived back then in upper Manhattan.
WBLS DJ, Chuck Chill-Out swears that when he was a kid, Frazier and teammates Willis Reed, Dean Meminger and Earl Monroe were at his neighbors’ house party late one night on East 222nd Street, way uptown in the tip end of the north Bronx.
“Yeah, I wouldn’t doubt it,” said Frazier who played 12 years, and never received a technical foul.
“I was just being myself,” Frazier stated. “I was in the greatest city in the world, on a winning team, 24, 25 years old. I liked to go out. I liked to have fun.”
Frazier doesn’t hang out as much as he once did. Now living in Harlem, he’s also a restauranteur, the owner of Clyde’s Wine and Dine on Tenth Avenue, several blocks west of Madison Square Garden, a popular place to hang out.
Frazier was one of the first ball players to have a sneaker deal, and Puma has resurrected their association that began early on during Frazier’s career as a player.
They had a low top suede design in several colors with a light grey signature wing with “Clyde” written above it. Like Jordan’s, it was a must have item.
“That’s a revelation. Puma is back after 40 years. The blessings continue. Everywhere I turn, Clyde is still alive.”