Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.

Walt Frazier turns 70 Sunday.

If that makes you feel old, join the club.

"I've never been interested in numbers, like when I turned 40 or 50 or 60," the MSG analyst, past and present fashion plate and Greatest Knick Ever said. "But 70 is starting to sound old. Wow, 70."

First it was Joe Namath, who reached the milestone a couple of years back, and now it's the other sports icon of Baby Boomer New Yorkers -- and of a franchise that hasn't won it all since Broadway Joe and Clyde ruled the city on and off duty.

The good news for Frazier and the rest of us is he still looks good, still feels good and still is a vibrant part of the town he adopted nearly a half-century ago.

"My prayers have been answered," he said of what he considers a charmed life.

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As for his health and relative youthfulness, he said, "I thank three people: I thank God, I thank my parents for the genetics and I thank 'Just for Men.' "

That last one is a hair coloring product Frazier used to endorse and still uses. But more important than dye has been how he has cast himself, first as a basketball star, more recently as a likable TV personality and hands-on restaurateur.

Such is Frazier's ongoing star status that Clyde Frazier's Wine and Dine, which opened three years ago Wednesday on 10th Avenue in Manhattan, not only attracts Knicks and Rangers fans but bar mitzvahs and youth birthday parties.

"You wouldn't believe how many bar mitzvahs we've done,'' he said.

If he is available, he shows up, and even the 13-year-olds know who he is.


The restaurant has kept him from visiting St. Croix, where for decades he has owned property, including rental homes, as often as he used to. When he is there, he knows it is time to scale back his involvement in maintaining the property himself, given, well, you know.

"I like to do the painting, and I'm up and down hills, working 12 hours a day," he said. "There's no way I can do that now."

Still, after a relatively injury-free career and years of exercise and careful eating, he said, "I feel pretty good . . . I don't feel a big change in my physicality."

The announcing grind does have its challenges at 70, especially back-to-backs, which he called a "struggle." But Frazier said he still is having fun and has no plans to give up TV anytime soon. Even when he does, he wants to remain part of the show.

"I'd like to be with the Knicks forever in some capacity as a celebrity, entertaining fans before games, just meeting and greeting like I do at the restaurant, maybe some stuff in the studio," he said.

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"I have faith that Phil Jackson is going to get this team back to its former grandeur, so I want to be there and relish that and enjoy that and hopefully be there when the team wins another championship."

In the meantime, he said interacting with fans "energizes" him, and vice versa.

"People show me so much respect, man, call me 'Mr. Frazier' and talk about the glory days and thank me for those championship years," he said. "Now I have a new generation of kids who know me as the Knicks' announcer, and when they approach me, I can see the excitement in them."

He does not envy current NBA stars, who live a more insulated life than his Knicks did and seem to have less fun.

That was a long, long time ago now. "When I look at the ballplayers, man, I'm like 40 years older than these guys," he said. "It's incredible."