Every Knicks fan is familiar with the Walt Frazier of the NBA championships era – live or via video highlights – but Saturday night MSG will unveil something unseen in 45 years, not even by Frazier himself until recently.
The season premiere of “MSG’s Vault’’ is a special called “Before He Was Clyde,’’ built around a pristine recording of the 1967 NIT final, in which Frazier led Southern Illinois over Al McGuire-coached Marquette, 71-56.
Frazier believes his 21-point, 11-rebound performance, which brought the Salukis back from an 11-point halftime deficit, led “unequivocally’’ to the Knicks drafting him that spring.
MSG uncovered the video not in its archives but at WSIU, a PBS station in Carbondale, Ill., after it asked Frazier’s alma mater to help locate it. The result was a coup - a color videotape recording of CBS’ coverage from the old Garden.
The program includes oddities such as pregame highlights that include Jim Valvano playing for Rutgers and CBS’ peculiar choice of a color analyst: Frank Gifford?!
Frazier said watching his younger self was a strange experience. He recalled being nervous on his first trip to New York City, but he could recognize in his game early versions of his “moving and grooving’’ style and commitment to defense.
It was not until that NIT, against stars he only had read about, that he grasped where he stood. “Only after we won the NIT and I won Most Valuable Player,’’ he said, “did I think I’d have a chance to play in the NBA.’’