At a recent event, MSG Network was promoting its summer block of programming, highlighted by a new MSG’s Vault–Walt Frazier: Before He Was Clyde.
The episode, debuting June 23, centers on the lost video of Frazier’s final collegiate game for the Southern Illinois Salukis. The NIT Championship, originally broadcast on CBS (with Frank Gifford providing color commentary) in 1967 was played at MSG, giving Knicks brass a front-row seat to witness his future greatness. Two weeks later he was the Knicks first-round draft choice. (Frazier will live tweet during Saturday’s program @nyknicks)
Fast forward 20 years, and Frazier is a Hall of Famer, with his number 10 retired by the Knickerbockers. He guided the franchise to their only two championships to date.
But Clyde was about to embark on a new career–Knicks announcer. First he was describing the action on radio. For more than a decade, he has a new found celebrity on MSG Network.
“I was only 34 years of age and now I was getting the mic professionally,” Frazier tells FishbowlNY. “It took me a couple of years to get over not being a superstar.”
While Clyde was could always shoot and dish a basketball, for broadcasting he needed one personal upgrade.
“I found out early on that I had to improve my vocabulary if I wanted to be successful,” Frazier recalls.
To become a wordsmith, he gives an assist to The New York Times.
“I used to get the Sunday Times Arts and Leisure section. They’d critique the plays: ‘riveting’ ‘mesmerizing,’ ‘provocative,’ ‘profound,’” I like the way the words sounded so I wrote them down. I have books and books of words and phrases, how they [are] utilized. Then I started applying them to the game.”
These days Frazier, 67, is known for his eloquent vernacular and, of course, those many rhyming phrases.
Since the beginning for Clyde at MSG Network, there has been Al Trautwig. And Trautwig (video clip below) has felt like kid in the candy store working with his boyhood idol each night.
“He doesn’t let it get overwhelming,” Trautwig tells FishbowlNY. “He’s a challenging guy, and you never want to disappoint him or put him in a spot where you’re asking stupid questions.”
Trautwig primarily sees Frazier on the Knicks pre- and post-game show, but there are other specials, including the aforementioned MSG’s Vault.
Before becoming a mainstay of Knicks coverage on MSG, though, Frazier says he was not bitten by any broadcasting “bug,” even in the twilight of his playing days.
“I lucked into it. I never anticipated doing it,” Frazier says. “…But I love it.”
After retiring from the NBA in 1980, Clyde got his sportscasting start with his hometown Atlanta Hawks on TBS. Frazier confesses he was hooked after his first game from the broadcast booth.
“That’s why I work diligently to improving [myself] and I’m still at it. I hope to work another five to 10 years,” Frazier smiles broadly.