A real icon.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
The infamous steel carriages of the New York subway are chugging towards their downtown destination. Some laced with graffiti, others shine in all their silver sheen. Inside one of the cars two young New York Knickerbocker fanatics dressed head to toe in that old Knick gear-that will one day make Mitchell and Ness rich-look bemused towards a man on the other side of the L-train dressed too good for the orange and yellow plastic carriage. He almost stands out on this train like Eddie Murphy in 'Coming To America', he almost looks like a pimp. The confused pair of fans laugh nervously with intrigue as this man shifts his crossed leg over to the other. Decked in slacks, the finest Italian footwear and a coat that leaves people asking; 'what is that mink'? The man raises the brim of his 'Bonnie and Clyde' hat to reveal-between some classic mutton chops-the biggest grin. He knows something the fans don't know, sparks fly and illuminate this man as the train pulls into Penn Station.
The coolest dressed man in lower Manhattan leads everyone out the subway as the two fans follow him like his name was the pied piper. This dude has swagger and not to mention the coolest walk these guys have ever seen. The fans follow this man to their same destination; Madison Square Garden, it's gameday. As the two fans try to keep up they are stopped by security who points them to where they need to go. As the wooden gates of the elevator are pulled around this man he tips his hat and gives them a wink with his smile still intact. The two fans do that 'if she looks back it means something' stare as the man disappears to the heavens almost in smoke. They make their own slog upstairs as they head to their upper tier seats that would have given them nosebleeds if it wasn't for the journey to the top of the Garden doing so instead.
As the two fans hustle and push for their seats between those fans who have taken their kids and those who have taken their share of concessions they settle down and take turns on the binoculars watching the action on court. One fan focuses on a figure on court that looks familiar. "I'd recognise that walk anywhere" he says to himself. "Isn't that?" The PA announcer interrupts him and takes the words right out of his mouth. "Into the game for the New York Knickerbockers, number 10 Walt Fraizer". The fan can't believe it, in embarrassment he looks up to the rafters of the Mecca, the same rafters that will one day be the home to the same number 10 jersey...but not yet. Right now it's the seventies and it's Walt Fraizer's time. The Rolls Royce will take him to the next game, Clyde's not playing anymore. He's a class act above the rest. The king of the court and the king of cool. Playground players may have duked it out to determine by word of mouth who was the best, but they needed to stop talking. Walt wore the crown and it went pretty nice with his suit.
Long before Amar'e Stoudemire gave the heart of this city hope again and before the last bead of Patrick Ewing sweat was moped up off this MSG floor. Way, way before the Carmelo Anthony trade brought the promise of the return of the glory days to N.Y. Basketball, Walt Fraizer was the man that gave this town those same glory days. Making headlines with his New York times, taking the back page to the front page. Standing out like than the bright lights of Times Square on New Years, a shining icon in this big city. Bringing magic to New York like a Sinatra song on Christmas day, bringing the magic to the hardwood before Earvin did. Playing like he could own the blacktop's of the Rucker. A true New York legend. Rising like the steam out the grids on a December morning, smelling better then the nuts and dogs they serve on the street corners. Food for thought; this man brought the five boroughs of New York to the core of the Big Apple in the Garden. Adam's and Eve's all came for a bite, date night became fan night. Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens, Staten Island, Manhattan and the rest of the world all came to watch 'Clyde the glyde' swoop up steals and fly.
Willis Reed and that legendary ankle may have been a hero, but Walt Fraizer is New York basketball's saviour (and had 36 points and 19 assists in the same finals winning game that crowned the injured Reed). Earl 'The Pearl' Monroe may have been smooth as hell and the dubbed 'Black Jesus' but the sharply dressed and game honed Walt was more than a style icon, he had substance, he was a basketball God. Basket after basket, legacy after legend, influencing the culture-change of the game before the Jordan's, the Kobe's and the Iverson's. Fraize' had the answers, changing and guarding the throne. He earned more than style points, he was more than just a player. Clyde was cold as ice, but hot as hell. Jerry West and Elgin Baylor's temperament would have found it hard to match his temperature. Walt was cool as a cucumber, helping putting games in Chick Hearn's fridge, bringing showtime to the New York times side. With a Chrysler tall ceiling and an empire state of mind. New York, New York belonged to the man with two names. His game never rested, never to be slept on. 'Down goes Fraizer'...never that. Basketball's heavyweight rolled with all the punches.
Fresh out of the ATL, Georgia brown Walt helped give David T. Howard High School it's name (not literally however, let's give respect where respect's due) and took things higher in college, giving a basketball education in Southern Illinois, before being selected as the famous five in the '67 draft ready to make his Manhattan moments sports memories. Two rings (the only for this legendary but unlucky Knick franchise), seven all-stars and defensive accolades, a retired jersey and a 'NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team' honour to go with his cool, savvy play later and Walt Fraizer re-wrote history. He also wrote the book on cool...literally. Check the reference.
His style was signature, his stardom was autographed and his legend engraved down the Hall of Naismith's inscriptions. Sure he wasn't the logo but this icon's legacy still lasts today. From Puma releasing anniversary editions of this legendary cat's kicks, to die-hard Knick fan Spike Lee naming one of his Denzel Washington characters in 'Inside Man'; Fraizer (mixed with Mets legend Keith's first). He spelt the name right too, Fraizer with a 'Z'. A little inside, real recognises real. Are you familiar? The most famous 'Fraiser' in America is not played by Kelsey Grammer. Are you listening? You can hear more from Clyde these days as he provides colour commentary to this generations 'bockers with perfect rhyme, in perfect time. Being a spokesman for this game with the same poetry that made him the player he was and the one-of-a-kind man he still is today. His legend still stands like his assist record. Making him a fan favourite from past, to present and future. This is Walt Fraizer. This is New York basketball.
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