Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier on 40 Years With Puma, His Love of Motown and Why LaMelo Ball Is the Next NBA Star to Watch

·6 min read

NBA icon Walt “Clyde” Frazier has been synonymous with Puma for nearly 40 years, and in its latest brand campaign, the athletic giant highlighted what makes his legacy truly remarkable.

Puma’s new marketing effort, dubbed “For All Time,” was created to examine the meaning of the word classic, and offers a look at why the company should be considered a classic sneaker brand. To pull this off, Puma put together “The Collective,” a group of influencers who in their own way have shaped sneaker culture including June Ambrose, Mike “Upscale Vandal” Camargo, Rhuigi Villaseñor, Dapper Dan and several others.

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The latest video in the series was of Frazier, who inked a lifetime deal with Puma in June 2018. In the clip — which highlighted his Puma Clyde shoes — the basketball hall of famer talked growing up in Atlanta under the oppression of segregation, his love of fashion that developed during his early days with the New York Knicks and more.

Below, Frazier reveals his fashion inspirations to FN, details what 40 years with Puma means to him and reveals the current basketball players on the the athletic giant’s ambassador roster he is most intrigued by.

Puma’s aim with “For All Time” was to examine the meaning of the word classic. How do you define classic?

“Classic is something different, something with pizzazz. You’re just doing your thing. People think it’s really exciting but you’re just being yourself.”

For the campaign, Puma created “The Collective,” a group of influential people in their respective fields including yourself, Dapper Dan, June Ambrose and others who tell their life stories. What makes this group special?

“They all have a unique style, something different that they bring to the game. Puma was able to capitalize on that. It’s a very extraordinary group, a very provocative group, and right now we’re all having tremendous success.”

What will people take away from your “For All Time” video? 

“I think my humbleness. Clyde is the guy, as my girlfriend would say, is love with himself — but I’m a very down to earth person. My origination was Atlanta, so I’m like a laid back southern guy. When I’m out I like to be around people as Clyde, fraternizing with people, but other than that I’m just a guy. I work hard, and there’s no entourage around me. It’s just me, my lady and my plants on my property, doing my thing, enjoying life.”

Walt Frazier (L) with Dick Barnett (R) and Phil Jackson in 2014. - Credit: James Devaney/WireImage
Walt Frazier (L) with Dick Barnett (R) and Phil Jackson in 2014. - Credit: James Devaney/WireImage

James Devaney/WireImage

Who, or what, has inspired your legendary style over the years?

“Early on when I came out of college, I was a Brooks Brothers guy — button down collared shirts, penny loafers. But when I came to the mecca [Madison Square Garden], players wore suits to every game. Our idols were The Four Tops, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, and when they performed they wore a suit and tie. Today, these guys idolize the rappers and that’s who they dress like. We liked Motown and we were always trying to out-dress the other guy. I copied a lot from [Knicks teammates] Dick Barnett and Willis Reed, who were sharp dressers. I went where they had their suits made, their custom shirts, where they bought their shoes. Early on, I really didn’t have a lot of creativity, I was following other guys. But then I would to get to fashion magazines, the foreign ones — not GQ, but the foreign magazines. Then I found that I can look into women’s magazines and see 20 different styles and I could create from that. I’d go to my tailor and tell them this is for women but I want it made more for men, this particular style — pleated pants, jackets, suits. It gave me a whole new world of creativity that I could use.”

What does 40 years with Puma mean to you? 

“To be with anything that long is quite extraordinary. When I look back on it, it’s kind of serendipitous. When I retired, I wasn’t with Puma, but the breakdancers started to wear the Clyde so they had to bring me back. And then the retro craze came so they had to bring me back. And now, just out of the goodness of their heart, they are embellishing the guy that started it all. The most overwhelming thing is when I went to Germany to visit the Puma factory. The people didn’t know I was coming. When they introduced me, all of these people, 500 people, gave me a standing ovation for two or three minutes. I had chill bumps, it was like winning the NBA championship.”

Do you have a favorite moment in your 40 years with Puma?

“I think the lifetime contract or when I first started with them. They came to me back then and I said, ‘Man, I can’t wear this [Suede] shoe. It’s too heavy, it’s too clunky.’ And they go, ‘No, we want you to help design it [the Clyde].’ I was really impressed by that. They wanted my influence. Just in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, we sold so many shoes, we didn’t really need the rest of the country. It was remarkable what was going on with the shoe.”

Puma/Lenny "Kodak Lens" Santiago

Do you have a favorite Puma Clyde colorway?

“I like bright colors — yellow, green, blue, red. Right now, Puma also has the [LaMelo] Ball style [MB.01], which is a very creative shoe with colors. I watch a lot of his different colors that they bring out. I like anything with pizzazz. I disdain the mundane. I want something with color.”

Is LaMelo Ball the next great NBA star?

“Unequivocally. He’s the guy. I met him down in Charlotte, he came up to say hello. I was really surprised because these guys today think I’m an old time ball player, like a pioneer, but he was very excited. I think Charlotte has a great player in Ball. He’s like Clyde. He defends, he plays with a lot of gusto, he’s a very exciting player, provocative on the court. He’s going to be an All-Star for a long time.”

How would you describe Puma’s position in today’s basketball shoe market?

“With the guys that they’ve signed and the basketball shoes that are out there, they are trying to cut into Nikes popularity — and I think they’ve done that. We’ve got a select style of guys that are different from the guys that Nike has, and they’re forming a following, their style is catching on. It’s just a matter of time before Puma continues to cut into the market.”

LaMelo Ball in the Puma MB.01 “Queen City.” - Credit: Courtesy of Puma
LaMelo Ball in the Puma MB.01 “Queen City.” - Credit: Courtesy of Puma

Courtesy of Puma

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