Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier talks favorite Willis Reed memories, Jalen Brunson and why Knicks can still make a run

New York Knicks legend Walt 'Clyde' Frazier shared his thoughts on this season's Knicks team, some of his favorite memories and his broadcasting career in an exclusive interview.
New York Knicks color commentator and former player Walt Frazier.
New York Knicks color commentator and former player Walt Frazier. / Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks legend Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier is not only one of the greatest players in NBA history, but he’s also one of the greatest broadcasters, calling Knicks games for more than 25 years. 

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to speak with Clyde in an exclusive interview to discuss his latest partnership with AT&T, the Knicks season, some of his favorite memories from his playing days, and his broadcasting career. 

Frazier on the Knicks this season and Tom Thibodeau

New York has dealt with a ton of injuries this season, losing All-NBA forward Julius Randle for the rest of the campaign in January. Plus, acquisition OG Anunoby has been in and out of the lineup, playing in just a handful of games since Randle went down. 

Yet, after beating the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday night, the Knicks are just one game out of the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. 

Frazier pointed to the team’s defense as a major reason why it has still been successful this season. 

“Well, the defense has been the panacea – the second best in the league – giving up 107 points,” the Knicks legend said. “So, every game they're bringing the defense. So, when they're not scoring well, offensively, they can fall back on that. And of course, when they acquired OG [Anunoby] that only enhanced their defensive prowess. Then Deuce (Miles McBride) has been the beneficiary of the trade. He's also a defensive-oriented player. So, those guys have really catapulted the Knicks on the defensive end for sure.”

A lot of the Knicks’ defensive culture comes from head coach Tom Thibodeau, who has completely changed the Knicks’ franchise since taking over four seasons ago. 

From 2002 through the 2019-20 season, the Knicks had just two seasons where they won more than 40 games. Since Thibodeau has been named the head coach, New York has won 40 or more games in three of four seasons.

Frazier compared Thibodeau to legendary Knicks coach Red Holtzman, who led the Knicks to two titles during Frazier’s historic career. 

“Well, Thibs reminds me of a guy named Red Holtzman, who was my coach, and the Knicks would go on to win two championships,” Frazier said. “So, our forte was defense as well, team ball, hit the open man and they – I see a lot of that in the Knicks. They like each other – the camaraderie on the court, the continuity. So, they are a very together team and Thibs deserves a lot of credit.”

Even with the injuries, New York is in the mix for a top seed in the East entering the final week of the regular season. While Randle being ruled out for the rest of the campaign may be looked at as a catastrophic blow to the Knicks’ title hopes, Frazier doesn’t see it that way. 

“Well, they haven't let it affect them, they still go about their business,” Frazier said of the team missing Randle -e leading to more double teams on star guard Jalen Brunson. “Every game is different. But obviously he's the catalyst. So, they start out if they’re doubling him, he gets the ball to the open man or vice versa. 

“I've liked the continuity and spontaneity that they've shown with Randle being out and that's why this is not gonna be as detrimental as it was a couple of years ago when they lost Randle because they've been playing without him and OG as well.

“The thing in life is confidence, man, if you don't believe you can't achieve, so you got to believe that you have to be believing now, ‘Hey, man, we can do it.  We've done it without these guys. Look at where we are.’

“So, going into the playoffs, this has to be a positive mindset. Obviously, the world's most famous arena is a catalyst. If they can get the home court and start out there, that's a big advantage, and who knows what could happen.”

A playoff team last season, New York stormed through the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round, winning in five games, but injuries to Randle and Immanuel Quickley hurt the team in the second round against the Miami Heat.

Knicks fans certainly are hoping that the team can summon the belief that Frazier thinks they should have in themselves ahead of the playoffs. 

Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier’s favorite Willis Reed memories

Frazier has always spoken highly of his former teammate and Knicks legend Willis Reed. 

“The Captain” was one of the driving forces to New York’s two title teams, and he was a mentor for Frazier as he came into his own in the NBA.

Clyde shared a great memory of Reed scolding him for coming in late one season while the Knicks were in the playoffs. 

“One time we were in the playoffs when I was in my second year and I was coming in late and Willis saw me,” Frazier said. “He goes, ‘Hey man,  what are you doing? Go take your butt to bed!’ And I go, ‘Okay, yes, sir.’  But then I thought, ‘What the hell was he doing?’ He was out there too! 

“But that was the respect that I have for him, and he was the backbone of the team. My tenacity that I learned on the court, I learned from Willis Reed, I learned how to be altruistic off the court, dealing with the fans. I copied his handwriting. He had excellent handwriting. So, he was a tremendous role model, a very positive role model for me.”

It was Reed, who played through injury in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals, who inspired Frazier to have the best game of his career. 

“Game 7 Willis Reed – when Willis Reed came out, we didn't know if he would play or not,” Frazier said of his favorite memory as a Knick. “I had the game of my life, 36 points, 19 assists, seven rebounds, four steals. I sold hot dogs at halftime. “That would catapult the Knicks to win their first championship ring.”

New York won titles with Reed and Frazier in 1970 and 1973, and Frazier was amazing in the 1970 Finals, averaging 17.6 points, 10.4 assists and 7.7 rebounds per game in the series. 

“I ended up getting two,” Frazier said, showing me his two NBA championship rings. “Willis Reed was the guy who inspired me just seeing him come up on the floor. I go, ‘Man, we got these guys.’ And ironically when I left the locker room, Holtzman told me, ‘Hey, Clyde hit the open man.’

“But as the game progressed, I was the open man! So, I kept making shots and dishing and swishing. That's the memory that I can recall vividly as yesterday.”

Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazer on Jalen Brunson

Frazier is the best point guard in Knicks history, but New York finally has a point guard that is of his caliber on the roster, as All-Star Jalen Brunson has transformed the franchise in the last two seasons. 

Expectations for Brunson when he signed with the Knicks were mixed, including from Frazier, who didn't see him turning into this big of a star right away. 

“He’s very durable, he's relentless,” Frazier said of Brunson. ”He's sagacious, he's tenacious. He's a team player. He loves to win. So, he embodies all the things that we were talking about him being a champion.

“I must admit when they first acquired him, I was dubious about his potential. You know, he's 6’2, but not that athletic, not that quick. I knew when they acquired him, his career average was 16 points. So, I was saying ‘Maybe if this guy averages 20 points a game, man, that would be great.’ You know what I mean? Right now, he's at 27 (points) and 6 (assists).

“So he's among the leaders, the top five in scoring. He's played almost every game and every night he amazes me with some different move that – sometimes they double team him, they triple team him, they've had no success in finding a formula to stop him.”

After knocking off the Bucks behind a 43-point effort from Brunson, the Knicks point guard is second in the NBA in 40-point games this season behind only Luka Doncic. 

Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier’s partnership with AT&T

Frazier is partnering with AT&T for the “AT&T’s Legend’s Brunch” which features an intimate brunch and fireside chat with the two-time NBA champion. 

After the brunch, attendees will have the opportunity to meet and take a photo with Clyde, and will walk away with a custom poster commissioned for the event.

“I'm delighted and excited,” Frazier said of his partnership with AT&T.  “This is an annual thing that they do. They've had so many other greats to do this [Bill] Russell, Doctor J (Julius Erving), Larry Bird. So, I'm just happy to be one of those guys and to be here for this auspicious occasion.” 

Broadcasting career and Clyde’s famous catchphrases

For Knicks and NBA fans, Clyde has plenty of famous catchphrases that you’ll hear over the course of a game. 

A few examples include: 

  • Dishing and swishing
  • Spinning and winning
  • Bounding and astounding
  • Posting and toasting

There are too many to mention, and Frazier was kind enough to share with me the origin of those phrases and how they come so naturally to him. 

“Well, when I first got into broadcasting, I was on radio,” Frazier said.  So I used to work with a guy who – you know, radio, their nuances, the color guy doesn't say that much. Only when the ball is dead or there's a foul. I used to work with a guy, if I was trying to describe something, he just go, ‘Excuse me, Walt.’ Right on the air, he’d just run right over me.

“So, if the team was moving the ball and doing stuff, I knew he had to catch his breath, I’d go, ‘They’re dishing and swishing, they're bounding and astounding, they're ubiquitous.’

“That was the only thing that I could get in before he would come back in. That's why it was a necessity really starting the rhymes and that's how it evolved. And also I used to practice when I watch a game, I turn down the sound and no one’s talking to you have to be more intense. What you hear me say on there, I've said hundreds of times in my living room by myself. 

“And that's how I got – I developed the spontaneity of – the ball goes out of bounds, ‘Stumbling and bumbling, high and awry, the court is only 50 feet wide.’ I got all these different things that instantaneously came out because I've said them in my living room hundreds of times just sitting there watching different games.”

Clyde on his relationship with Mike Breen

Both Frazier and his Knicks broadcast partner Mike Breen are Hall of Famers, and they’ve been partners for decades with the Knicks. 

“Mike came in, respected me,” Frazier said of his broadcast partner. “He goes, ‘Clyde, people wanna hear what you have to say. So just say it.’  

“I didn't have that with the other guy. I was able to relax a little more and that's how we became such a formidable team with our mutual respect for each other relating to the game. Mike knows that the people wanna hear what I'm saying. So, we never let our egos get involved in what was happening and how ironic that catapulted both of us into the broadcast and Hall of Fame.”

To hear all of my interview with Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier, make sure to check out the Youtube video above!