We welcomed a legend to our basketball camp the other day. Walt "Clyde" Frazier from the New York Knicks came to our camp to speak with the kids, and share some tips and pointers on basketball, life, and everything in between.
Joining us for the conversation was Ian Begley of SNY, and our own Nas Nuru, event coordinator here at Playbook.
We've transcribed the entire interview for you so you can take a page out of Clyde's book, and maybe learn a thing or two from what he told our campers.
Here's a video snippet of Clyde addressing the kids:
Ian Begley: When you look back on your journey, what kind of role did teachers, coaches, parental figures play in getting to where you ended up?
Walt Frazier: That’s a good question. You might have heard people say they were raised by a village, I was really raised by a village. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, cousins, my peers, everybody played a part in my sitting here before you as a success today. First of all, I always credit my parents, they were always there for me. My uncle was the catalyst of me being in sports, my mother’s brother encouraged me to play basketball and football and baseball, to be all the things I just eluded to you guys, to be a good person, get an education. Because maybe none of you guys will be professional players, but you have to do something in life. So I told you this is starting my 25th year as a Knick broadcaster, 25 years I’ve been doing that now, working on my education, so that’s very important, something to fall back on. But, there’s always people willing to help, and that’s why I told them I’ve been doing this for 50 years, basketball camp, because everything I got people helped me. I remember when I was a freshman in college, I had a speech class, so I always went to class until it was time to give my speech. So one day the teacher said, “Mr. Frazier, I’d like to see you after class.” So he goes, “Why is it that you come to class until it’s time to give your speech?” I said, “I can’t talk in front of the class.” He goes, “You’re the basketball player, aren’t you?” I said, “Yes sir.” He said, “Well, I’ve seen you play in front of thousands of people that you don’t know, why don’t you talk in front of 20 people you do know?” I said, “That sounds pragmatic, but what am I going to talk about?” He said, “Talk about basketball.” So my first speech I gave was on basketball. I thought people would laugh, nobody laughed. Whenever I’m in front of a group like this, I have a flashback to that guy. What if this man didn’t give me the confidence to do that? Would I be shaking and quaking, wheeling and dealing, thrilling now that I’m a Knick announcer. I have to think of that, would I have the confidence to do what I do today? So that’s why I tell you, confidence is the main factor to success.
IB: I think we owe a thank you to that professor, because you can entertain both off the court and on the court, on the microphone by Clyde for years now. Last question for me before I cede the stage to Nas, just in a general sense, but if you want to get into specifics, if you look at the NBA when you were starring in the league, and you look at the NBA today, what are some of the big differences you see between your playing days and today’s league?
WF: There’s a big difference between when I played and today. When I played, there were 12 teams. 12 teams, guys. Now, there are 30. The ball boys make what we used to make. But the biggest change of the game is the size of the players. When I played, I was a big guard at 6’4”. Now, I’d be a point guard today. Shooting guards are like 6’7”, 6’8”, so the evolution of the game is the height of the players. Durant is 7 feet. What he does at 7 feet, the way he dribbles, and moves and grooves on the court, it’s just amazing the skills these guys have at their size, which we could not do. So that’s the biggest evolution of the game, the size of the players, their creativity and versatility.
Nas Nuru: Awesome, awesome. I’m just surprised and shocked to even be here, to be honest with you. My name is Nasur Nuru, I am the event coordinator for Playbook sports and software, we want to be the nation’s number one youth and recreation software company, we work alongside NYC Basketball Kids, we are honored to have you here this summer. I don’t know if you kids know, you’re talking to a seven time NBA all star, 1975 NBA All Star MVP, two time champion, this guy has been great, and although he’s been in broadcasting for 25 years, he has been a legend in New York, period.
But I wanted to ask you, we work with a lot of program directors and coaches, through our fundraising events and our league management software that we produce through Playbook, although you’ve been a great commentator and a Hall of Fame player, my question is, are there any coaches or athletic directors that have impacted your life?
WF: A lot of coaches, primarily my high school coaches, grade school coaches. I played 12 years in the NBA, guys, and I’ve never had a technical foul called on me. Because when I was growing up, my coaches never allowed me to talk back. I remember, I was in the 8th grade, and I was a hot head, I used to lose my head, and one day the coach said, “Frazier! Don’t lose your head, son, your brains are in it!” So I never forgot that. Like I said, I played 12 years, never had a technical foul, I just played the game, never complained to the refs about anything.
NN: When it comes to coaches, what advice do you want to give coaches and directors who are trying to work their way from the bottom, where they’re doing youth sports, and maybe they want to take their talents to college, or even beyond college, you know, NBA, Euroleague, things of that nature? Because you’ve seen coaches that come from nowhere, you know, like Lawrence Frank, or maybe even a Kenny Atkinson, who coaches the Nets right now.
WF: Well, if you’re a coach, and you’re trying to get to the next level, first of all, you gotta like kids. I’m getting paid for this, but that’s not why I’m here. I could be anywhere I want in the world, guys. I could be anywhere I want in the world right now, but I decided to be here with you today. I was told to give back, this is why I am where I am today. People have helped me where I am, so I’d be an ingrate if I didn’t give back. So I feel compelled to give back. My philosophy today is, if I can help one kid, if I can change one of you kids’ lives, that’s why I came here. That’s why I’m here today.
NN: Can you tell me the difference, growing up playing in Atlanta, where you’re from, versus today’s youth sports that’s going on right now, especially here with NYC Basketball Kids, what differences do you see?
WF: If they ever came to my house and ask my mom where was Walt, she would say, “go to the playground.” There were never any parents on the playground. There was one lady that was in charge of the equipment, and there were just kids. No parents, my parents never came to the playground to see me play. There was no AAU, none of that. I never left the city of Atlanta to go play ball any place.
NN: Were you ever upset over that, where your parents didn’t come support you while you were on the court playing basketball?
WF: My mom only came to watch me play football.
NN: Wait, you played football? What was your position at football?
WF: I was a quarterback. I was a good passer, my idol was Johnny Unitas. I was a guy who could really pass the ball.
NN: So you’re not like Y.A. Tittle, more like Johnny Unitas?
WF: Jonny U was my idol, yeah.
NN: Last question from me, what advice can you offer to the young people here, in a program where their dreams are to be a basketball player, maybe to be a lawyer or doctor, what advice can you give them to motivate them?
WF: I told them it’s the same thing, whether it’s sports, doctor, lawyer, or Indian chief. You gotta have a plan, confidence, tenacious work ethic, utilize your time, try to work as a team, networking. Today what we’re doing is networking. Some of you guys are going to be lifetime friends. 30 years from now, some of you guys will still be friends, because of this camp. Why I like this camp, is that we instill confidence in you. Teamwork, sportsmanship, all the things you need to be a successful sportsman, or just successful in life. You gotta work with people. Handling pressure. I learned more from losing than I ever did from winning. If you’re winning, everybody’s with you. When you’re losing, it’s just you and the team. Even my sister would say, “Man, you guys stink.” My auntie would say, “Do you guys ever practice or something?” Only your mother, she’s the only person who has sympathy for you when you’re losing. My mother would say, “Want me to save you some chicken?” I go, “Mom, chicken can’t help me now.” So, I learn more from losing than I ever do from winning. Adversity is not always a bad thing. I’ve overcome a lot of adversity to become a successful person. When I was in college I flunked out of school once, because I didn’t make grades, and that was the best thing that ever happened to me. From that point on I became a more responsible student, I worked on my education. I worked more diligently on my basketball. It was actually the turning point of my life, when I flunked out of school once, and after that I’ve been thriving ever since. It’s not the end of the world when something bad happens to you. You guys don’t know how lucky you are. My grandfather used to tell me, when my grandmother and mother rewarded me for going to school, he said, “Why? all they do is eat and sleep and play basketball! How tough is that?” I never met a pro player until I played my first pro game. At that point, it was just a dream, hoping I could be this player. Well it happened because of what I just told you guys, I had a plan, I had confidence, I worked diligently, I used my time, I was a good team player, I was very motivated. You guys don’t know, I’m the oldest of nine kids. I have seven sisters and one brother. I know what it’s like to be hungry, what it’s like to go to sleep hungry. I know what it’s like to have holes in my clothes, and you guys know I’m the best dressed guy of all time. I had holes in my clothes, but they were always clean. Like I said, I’ve overcome a lot of adversity. Jimmy Butler was homeless at 13 years of age. You never know. A lot of players had overcome a lot of adversity to get where they are. You can be whatever you want to be. My coaches always told me, “It’s not where you come from, it’s where you’re going.”