Style Icon: Walt “Clyde” Frazier

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The word “Icon” gets used far too often. Everyone is a musical icon, sports icon, fashion icon – it’s sometimes hard to differentiate reality from hype, see who’s the real thing, and who’s the flash in the pan. There are a few individuals however, whose sheer presence, talent and longevity allows you to see that they’re very obviously the real deal. One of those, we profile this week in Walt Frazier.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1945, Frazier played ball at a segregated school in the volatile American South during the 1950s. He eventually went on to attend Southern Illinois University, winning the 1967 NIT tournament, where he was named tournament MVP. Frazier was a confident player, full of flash and flair, able to play a stingy defensive game, combined with a tricky, speedy offensive game. He could score. He could steal. He could pass. A truly multi-talented point guard, Frazier was drafted by the New York Knicks with the fifth overall pick in 1967.

Here, Frazier slowly blossomed into a full-blown star on and off court. In the media capital of Manhattan, Frazier slowly learned to be the centre of attention. He became known for his fondness for bespoke suits, full-length mink coats, and Borsalino hat – which along with his ball-stealing ability, earned him his “Clyde” nickname. He’d be spotted at nightspots all up and down New York City, and started arriving for games at Madison Square Garden in a Rolls Royce – complete with vanity license plate marked “WCF”.

Not just content with taking over on the court, Frazier would become one of the earliest basketball players to really get into the shoe game, endorsing Puma’s “Clyde” basketball shoe, still one of Puma’s bestselling sneakers. Frazier later told GQ that his status as a fashion icon really hit him when “we’d go to Detroit and after the game we’re on the bus, and all the kids would go, Clyde, c’mon, man, where’s the mink? Clyde, c’mon, man, we wanted to see you dressed up!

“That’s when I realized that people were really into the way I was dressing. So that’s when I went somewhere I made sure I was dressed up,” said Frazier.

 
Frazier combined off-court fashion with on-court success, helping the Knicks to the 1970 NBA Championship. He won again in 1973, after New York acquired the equally flashy Earl the Pearl Monroe, to form what was known as the “Rolls Royce Backcourt”
 

After retiring from the game in 1980, Frazier worked in broadcasting, developing a slick rhyming structure to his commentary. Point guards weren’t just playing well. Now, they were “swishing and dishing.” Players weren’t fighting for rebounds. They were “hustling and bustling.” It wasn’t long before MSG brought him back to lend his special brand of insight to Knick games. 

 

A true icon even to this day, despite some sartorial choices that seem inspired by Craig Sager, Clyde Frazier is undeniably a stylistic trailblazer in the NBA. Every time a player drives their Bentley to practice, they’re channeling Clyde. Every time they decide they need to do a postgame presser in a fresh new suit, they’re inspired by Clyde. And every time they’re swishing and dishing, they’re undeniably, living Clyde’s legacy.

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