NBA 75 Series: #53 Walt Frazier by DJ Hamilton


      Ranked #53 in my 75 Greatest NBA Players of All Time is the legendary New York Knicks point guard Walt “Clyde” Frazier. Frazier was born on March 29, 1945, in Atlanta, Georgia who was the eldest of nine children. He attended David Tobias Howard High School in Atlanta where he not only played basketball, but was also quarterback of the football team and a catcher in baseball. 

Frazier would learn the game of basketball on the dirt playground and would quickly grow into a phenomenal player. When it came time for him to choose a college he would commit to Southern Illinois University Salukis to play college basketball despite being offered scholarships to play football. Frazier stated how there were “no black quarterbacks” at Southern Illinois, which persuaded him to choose basketball over football.

Frazier would end up becoming one of the prestigious players in college basketball by being named a Division II All-American back-to-back years in 1964 and 1965. In his sophomore season, he would lead the Salukis to the NCAA Division II tournament where they would end up losing to future NBA player and head coach, Jerry Sloan, and the Evansville Purple Aces in overtime of a score of 85-82. 

Due to Frazier’s brilliance, the Salukis were able to move up in competition from Division II to Division I. In his senior year in 1967 he led his team to the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) to beat Marquette University 71-56 and be named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament. 

After an incredible collegiate career, Frazier would go on to get selected fifth overall in the 1967 NBA Draft by the mecca of basketball in the New York Knicks. His rookie season he would only average 9.0 points per game and be named to the 1968 All-Rookie first team.

Eventually, Frazier would continue to elevate his game and earn the moniker nickname “Clyde” by a Knicks trainer from the folk-hero robber Clyde Barrow, whose life was chronicled in the film Bonnie and Clyde, Frazier was known for his big hats and stylish attire, he was a stifling defender, one of the best perimeter defenders in league history and a smooth offensive player. He would breakout as a star in the 1969-70 season and was a key part of two Knicks championships (1970, 1973), including an iconic 36 point, 19 rebound, and seven assist performance in Game 7 of the 1970 Finals, which was overshadowed by his teammate Willis Reed’s return from his severe thigh injury.

Fans admired his cool demeanor, rarely indulging in angry outbursts and almost never expressed displeasure with officials. He became a certified hero in New York, which led to many magazine articles, photoshoots as well as commercial advertising opportunities. He became one of the first athletes to be paid to wear a sneaker, which was a suede Puma version.

Frazier’s accolades include being a seven-time All-Star, All-Star MVP (1975), six-time All-NBA, a seven-time All-Defensive first team selection, and a member of the 50th and 75th NBA anniversary teams. He also has his No.10 retired by the Knicks in Madison Square Garden. He was one of the best two-way guards of all-time and one of the most fashionable stars ever, who helped pave the way for future stars such as Dr.J, Iverson, and Westbrook, just to name a few.