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Walt Frazier takes trip down Clyde's memory lane

Knicks guard Walt Frazier. (Sept. 15, 1970)

Knicks guard Walt Frazier. (Sept. 15, 1970) Credit: AP

MSG will mark Walt Frazier's birthday Sunday with Clyde-related programming from 7:30 a.m. Friday through 4 a.m. Saturday, a marathon the network is calling "Clyde: 70 Years of Cool."

One highlight: the premiere of "Clyde's New York" following the Celtics-Knicks postgame, in which Frazier provides a tour -- in a Rolls-Royce, naturally -- of his old Manhattan stops.

"That was fun, but most of the venues are not there anymore so they couldn't get the real flavor," he said. "We went by Studio 54 and Wilt Chamberlain's Small's Paradise. Small's Paradise I have profound memories of, because when I first came to New York Willis Reed chaperoned me, so he took me there, got me a date.

"It was something out of a movie to me, the people, the women. I was mesmerized. Willis got a standing ovation when they introduced him. I got a little applause when they introduced me as the Knicks' first-round draft choice. Then they had the go-go girls dancing in cages. Man, I never saw such pretty women in my life.

"Willis had a convertible and we rode downtown to Times Square. I can remember that like yesterday, man. Then we went up to the Rucker Tournament in Harlem. It was like a video game. It was a Saturday and Willis picked me up and cars were triple-parked on the street, people are up in the trees, hanging on the fences, up on the apartment building.

"You could hardly walk onto the court. People were all around the court. There was music blaring, drums playing. I was so intimidated, man. Guys were dunking who I'd never heard of, goaltending, blocking Willis' shot. I was like, what is going on here? It was quite a revelation my first time I played up there."

Life was different in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

"In those days living was easy, man," Frazier said. "There wasn't inflation. Things weren't as expensive. The camaraderie between black and white was different. I thought there was more harmony then. We used to go to Friday's, Maxwell's Plum, a lot of places down there, and then downtown was more after-hours places, down in the meatpacking district.

"I never hung out after 4. Now with social media I would not have been able to be Clyde. Red Holzman would have known everything I was doing.

"These [current players] are not as accessible as we were. The game is too big now. When we played during the warmups you could come down and say hello to Clyde. Security wasn't that tight. After the game we walked out into the crowd. These guys can't go through a commercial airport. It would be a riot.

"So they're kind of isolated. The players are so big now. They're a victim of their own celebrity, whereas I'm not. I'm just enough that I can go out in public and get enough and it's not overwhelming for me. I can go out and meet and greet the people, but these guys can't do that. It would be too much."

In addition to its TV tribute to Frazier on Friday, MSG's website has several elements dedicated to his 70th birthday, notably a bracket in which fans have been voting for his best outfit ever.

The two finalists from a field of 16 are from a vintage shot of Frazier taking a subway ride and a far more recent cow-patterned ensemble. How would Frazier himself have voted?

"I was surprised the subway one made it, because I thought some of the other Clyde things, like the one with the Rolls-Royce, were cool, too," he said. "So probably the cow. I think the cow suit has been a unique one that epitomizes the Clyde persona, the creativity, the style. I think that suit embellishes everything Clyde is about."

Frazier was not certain under what circumstances the shot on the subway was taken, but he said he often would take the subway to the Garden if the team was leaving on a trip after the game and he did not want to drive.

"When people would see me they'd go, 'It looks like Clyde!'" he said. "So when I get on the subway I look like everybody else. I look mad, I look at the floor, I don't make eye contact . . . That day I was doing my New York thing, looking mad and down at the floor so no one would approach me. Somebody might see me and say, 'What would Clyde be doing on the subway? Clyde wouldn't be riding the subway.' Sometimes I'd be looking mad and someone would say, 'That's Clyde, man.'"

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