Recently I had a chance to speak with Knicks legend and broadcaster Walt “Clyde” Frazier, who was at the NBA Store in New York City to promote the rerelease of his 1974 book, Rockin’ Steady: A Guide to Basketball and Cool.
Frazier, a member of the “Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame,” was a two time NBA-champion with the Knicks and has become the team’s true symbol for greatness over the years.
Expanding his reach across multiple generations, Frazier has been a fan favorite forever; first as a player, and now as a broadcaster. His always astounding and marvelous vocabulary was certainly on display during our conversation.
To hear Clyde’s take on the Knicks’ early success this season, his defining style throughout the years, and what he says about “His Airiness,” Michael Jordan, read below.
Q: Everyone knows that you’ve always exuded such great style. If NBA fans want to look as suave as you, do they read the book?
A: Yes! If they read the book, they’ll find out how I developed my style and my “cool”. After all these years, it’s still going on! The title comes from just me simply “Rockin’ Steady!” I was wheeling and dealing and shaking and baking so that’s how we came up with the title.
Q: This season has seen big improvements for the Knicks. What’s been the biggest change from last season to this season?
A: Different personnel results in big changes. The Knicks finally have a center now to go to for key baskets; they’ve got an orchestrator who is a good penetrator and can shoot the ball. The defense is improved too—shot blocking coming from Turiaf. He’s brought in tenacity. Douglas has continued to play well off the bench too, so it’s not just one or two things. It’s a potpourri of things that have made them all better players.
Q: Turiaf and Douglas have certainly been leading an improved defense. That’s been huge, hasn’t it?
A: Well yeah, because the defense can create offense for the Knicks now. They’re blocking shots, causing turnovers; the team will only get better with defense, and it’s going to continue to improve too.
Q: When I spoke to your former backcourt mate, Earl Monroe, he told me there was nobody, not only on the Knicks, but in the entire NBA, that he felt as though plays similarly to the way he played. Do you agree?
A: Well, he was definitely unique: ever imitated and never duplicated was Earl. He had a unique style with his shaking and baking, and was spinning and winning. I agree with him; he was the guy!
Q: I’m assuming you feel the same way about yourself, too?
A: My style was different. I had those behind the back passes and tenacious defense, but what set me apart was my fashion prowess, you know? I did things off the court, I had my Rolls-Royce, sneaker endorsements, and my camps too. I took it to another level. The fans have always supported me; bought my books, attended my camps, and wore my sneakers. I will always have a special relationship with the fans. Even now, my peers have kids out there and they need help too, so I think they can view me as a positive role model. I’m not a guy who did drugs or drank alcohol. I had a good work ethic and gave back to the community.
Q: Not only have you been a great presence in the community, but you were probably the best point guard New York has ever seen. How do you feel about the play of Raymond Felton thus far?
A: He’s playing Frazier-like, man! He’s played good defense. He’s been dishing and swishing and has been a big surprise. I didn’t know he was that good of an all-around player, but I think his good play is going to continue. I predict he’s going to be an all-star this year and lead the team back into the playoffs.
Q: To close things out here, tell me your favorite moment as a Knicks player.
A: Favorite moment as a player was definitely the 1969-70 season when Willis Reed limped out on that court and I ended up having my 36 points and 19 assists.
Q: What about as a Knicks broadcaster?
A: Favorite moment as a broadcaster has to be having been able to be around for the Michael Jordan years. Those Bulls-Knicks series’ back in the day were so exhilarating, so I’m happy I got to witness all that up close.