Yesterday, for our ongoing 25th anniversary celebration at Steiner Sports, my old friend (and one of my first clients) Walt “Clyde” Frazier stopped by. We talked about his new restaurant, his relationship with New York City, and, of course, the NBA dress code.
How’s the new restaurant going, and why should I go there?
I’m a blessed guy to have a restaurant like this at this stage in my career. The ambiance, the décor, the uniqueness of it are all Clyde. Ark Restaurants is a great partner; they take care of the food, and we’re getting a lot of kudos for the food. My goal is to get people there; I’m the meeter, the greeter, the main guy - and unlike most people with their name on a restaurant, I show up. And if you’re a sports fan, we have over 40 TVs spread over 10,000 square-feet.
So I could go there and actually find you there?
You’ll find me there. After games, before games. I hang out there. I don’t want to cheat the fans if they want to take a picture or talk - I go through the entire bar meeting and greeting the people. I like that. We even have a room with a hoop and foul line where diners can shoot.
How’s everything else going for you? You look great, you haven’t lost a step in the broadcasting booth. Is everything else going well?
I’m content at this point. My family’s good, my health is good. People still show me a lot of respect.
There’s likeability and credibility and I always thought you had both. You might be the most well-liked Knick of all-time.
How’s Mike Breen to work with?
Terrific. From day one, he gave me a lot of room to articulate what I wanted to. You know I started in radio, which is a tougher venue than television, because there are nuances in radio. I started with Jim Karvellas; that’s why I came up with the rhymes and improved my vocabulary – I had to weave in and out of what Jim was saying. So when the Knicks were doing something, they were “dishing and swishing,” “shaking and baking,” “wheeling and dealing.” Because if I said something and stumbled, Jim would say “Excuse me Walt?”
Does it surprise you more players don’t come to you to ask you for advice?
This is my 24th year, and maybe three guys have ever asked me anything about the game or about New York City. It’s kind of frustrating because you would think the guys would relate to the past, but they look at the former players like, “That was then, this is now.” But it’s still basketball. A hundred years from now, it’s still basketball. It’s about teamwork, which the Knicks are doing, defense - the things they’re doing now that have catapulted them into being a winning team.
Does it make a difference in the broadcasting booth if they’re winning or losing?
No, because my focus is to do a perfect game, which I can never do. But that’s my objective. It’s easy to do a game with Miami. Anybody can do that game. But doing a game against Cleveland, in January - that’s the challenge. Keeping the fans interested in that.
How much preparation do you do before a game?
I do a tremendous amount of preparation. Because when I first started I saw Marv Albert studying and I couldn’t believe it. It’s like when kids see basketball players and they never think they practice - they think they just go out there and do it. I learned from working with Marv: don’t say anything you haven’t studied. So I got my work ethic from him.
What advice would you give to the ten-year-old Clyde now?
To attain success, you need a game plan. In life nobody plans to fail, they fail to plan. Confidence – if you don’t believe in yourself, nobody will believe in you. Utilize your time, don’t squander your time. There’s only 24 hours in a day. How bad do you want to be like Mike or Brandon Steiner? Are you willing to put in that work, day in, day out, to make that sacrifice? If you have a tenacious work ethic, nothing can stop you from achieving your goals.
On a scale of 1-10, how much fun are you having now? You seem like you’re at a 10.
I am. I persevered. We’ve gone through a lot. You knew me back when. You’ve seen my metamorphosis, I’ve seen yours. We’ve overcome a lot of obstacles.
I remember seeing you at the Hard Rock in the 80s, and you said: “I’m never coming back to New York.”
I went and found my peace in St. Croix and fate led me back to the city.
People are in love with you in this town. I don’t think you realized how much people still loved you.
I have to thank Michael Jordan and those guys for catapulting basketball and creating interest in it again. Because when I left the game, I thought the league would fold. Nobody was making money, there were negative connotations towards the game. I didn’t see it happening until Jordan and Magic and Bird brought it back.
What do you think of the NBA dress code?
I like it – making the guys look like professionals. These guys are all millionaires; you should come to the game looking like it.
Where do you get your clothes?
My clother is Mohan’s Custom Tailor. I’ve been with him around 20 years.
I worked in a kitchen when I was growing up, 80-90 hours a week, at Camp Sussex. There’s a lot of opportunities like this. Is that work nothing?