Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier is still king of cool all these years later
Mets' Francisco Lindor isn't afraid to live in $341 million spotlight
The disturbing truth this loss reveals about the Knicks
Mets will have to meet Jacob deGrom's high standard
Gonzaga has shot to make a certain kind of history
Kyle Neptune's monumental challenge as Fordham's new basketball coach
Walt Frazier turned 76 this week, and it is never a bad time to remember how much of a civic treasure he is, someone who embraced New York as a 22-year-old kid leading Southern Illinois to the 1967 NIT title, who has lived and worked here pretty much ever since, who is one of the regal figures in our city.
MSG Network has replayed that Southern Illinois-Marquette NIT title game a few times in recent months and it’s pure gold, like getting a peek at Pacino’s screen test for “The Godfather” or Keith Richards working out an early version of the guitar riffs on “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”
And you only need to have access to YouTube to see the greatest of all Frazier moments, the evening of May 8, 1970, Game 7 against the Lakers. Willis Reed captured the legend (and the MVP trophy) for hobbling onto the court and making his first two jumpers, the only baskets he scored. The rest of the night — and the rest of Knicks eternity — belonged to Frazier — who had 36 points and 19 assists and seven rebounds and looks, on that grainy tape, like one of the greatest players of all time.
Which he most certainly was.
But there is more, so much more to Frazier than what he did on the court. At a time when we laud athletes who don’t sneer in public, Frazier is in his seventh decade in putting smiles on the faces of everyone he comes in contact with. That includes campers who learned from him in the ’60s, fans who he thrilled in the ’70s, listeners who tuned into the radio in the ’80s, viewers who became next-generation fans in the ’90s, and so many who weren’t born yet on May 8, 1970, who have heard his rhymes and seen his glorious wardrobe in the aughts and the ’10s and now the ’20s.
“I like people,” he once told me, and all you need to do is see him interact with people — all kinds, all classes, all colors, all creeds — and you understand. It was George Kalinsky — equally gifted behind his camera as Frazier was on the court — who gave birth to “Clyde,” a pantheon New York nickname (alongside, if not a smidge higher, than “Broadway Joe” and “Babe”) by taking a series of iconic pictures early in his career.
And Clyde he has remained, an icon of greatness as an athlete and of goodness as a man. A friend recalled recently seeing Clyde rushing to work one day in the morass of Penn Station and my buddy said, “Hey, Clyde, give us a rhyme!”
“Haven’t got the time!” he said, smiling and buzzing past, giving him the rhyme even in a hurry, still figuring away to please and give a story he’ll tell the rest of his life.
One of the first sports books I read as a kid was a glorious title called “Rockin’ Steady: A Guide to Basketball & Cool,” which Clyde co-authored in 1974 with Ira Berkow (who himself knows a thing or two about “cool” since he was still running full-court pickup games alongside the likes of Oscar Robertson as he approached 70).
There were some useful basketball thoughts from Clyde on dunking (he thought it a needless risk; just “lay it in easy,” he advised) and passing (“I’ve seen guys make fancy passes that wow the crowd and bounce off the back of a teammate’s head; that’s not playmaking”) and defense (“Never cross your feet!”) and shooting (“I shoot on a line drive when I’m alone, with an arc when there’s some cat climbing my chest”).
But the essential advice was on the other side of the ampersand, covered in chapters subtitled “Cool” and “A General Guide to Looking Good, and Other Matters.” When I was 7, I was desperate to be cool and Clyde showed me how, for everything from showers (“I take a lukewarm shower, then a cold shower. Stimulates the blood.”) to toweling off (“Use short, brisk movements”) to the part everyone who’s read the book remembers: how to properly (and stylishly) catch a fly.
Wrong: Hover over fly, slam hand (illustrated).
Right: Approach fly from the side, relax and “bring flexor muscles to a spring-like tension.”
I read it again this week (it’s still in print; get it). He was cool then. He’s cool still. He is a treasure (and, as he would surely add, a pleasure).
Thanks to the Yankees, who dedicated a plaque in honor of the unforgettable Anthony J. Causi in the Stadium’s photographer’s well Friday. We celebrate Anthony’s life every day here at The Post, and sadly next week will reach the first anniversary of his passing. As the plaque says: “He captured history with extraordinary excellence and uncommon care. His luminous spirit and brilliant images remain with us forever.”
Mike Woodson has had some fine years as an NBA coach and did excellent work with the Knicks until Phil Jackson cut his legs cut out from under him in 2013-14. I hope he kills it at Indiana, because he always spoke so fondly about his time playing for the Hoosiers and how proud he was, as an Indianapolis kid, to wear that uniform.
Mick Cronin’s old man might not be as cute a mascot as Sister Jean, but he sure has gotten the job done this year. I’m old enough, by the way, to still laugh whenever I see UCLA in the same NCAA Tournament sentence as words like “plucky,” “upstarts” and “underdogs.”
On this Easter Sunday, please indulge me as I thank David Kwame Agyemfra, who found my wallet in the back seat of his taxi this week, drove 40 minutes into downtown D.C. to give it back, and only found me because he was distressed at what I was going through and called the number on my health insurance card. There is kindness yet in this world.
Whack Back at Vac
Richard Siegelman: Obviously, Kevin Durant will not be co-starring with Michael Rapaport in a revival of the old 1980s Broadway comedy “I’m Not Rappaport”!
Vac: I will sign up for a new-age interpretation of “The Odd Couple,” however.
Brendan Moffett: The Knicks are a team on defense — the “D” is greater than the sum of its parts. With the ball, they are five guys in the same uniform. They are never greater than the sum of their parts on offense.
Vac: It’s also possible that defense is about effort and offense is about talent. No one questions the Knicks’ effort. That talent part …
@PeterBotte: First shot done. Does that make me eligible to appear in @MikeVacc’s next Vac’s vax column?
@MikeVacc: You had me from hello, Peter.
Jim Pelella: So the MLBPA agreed to this extra inning player placed on second base? This tells they can’t wait to “get this damn game over” and get home. This tells me they don’t love the game. I love 17 inning games. I’m sorry, but if they don’t love the game any longer, then neither can I.
Vac: I had softened on that rule last year and realize now that last year’s baseball season was such an aberration I softened on it a lot. Seeing it Opening Day in The Bronx was a reminder, and a stark one: That rule stinks.
Share this article:
Source: Read Full Article