High school and collegesThe eldest of nine children, Frazier attended Atlanta's David Tobias Howard High School. He quarterbacked the football team and played catcher on the baseball team. He learned basketball on a rutted and dirt playground, the only facility available at his all-black school in the racially segregated South of the 1950s. After having a great career at Howard, Frazier attended Southern Illinois University. Although he was offered other scholarships for his football skills, Frazier accepted a basketball offer from Southern Illinois University.
Frazier wasted no time in becoming one of the premier collegiate basketball players in the country. He was named a Division II All-American in 1964 and 1965. In 1965, Frazier led SIU to the NCAA Division II Tournament only to lose in the finals to Jerry Sloan and the Evansville Purple Aces 85-82 in overtime. In 1966, he was academically ineligible for basketball.
In 1967, Frazier and SIU won the National Invitation Tournament (NIT), beating Marquette University 71-56 in the final at Madison Square Garden in New York. Frazier was named MVP of the 1967 tournament.
Professional careerFrazier was selected by the New York Knicks with the 5th pick in the 1967 NBA Draft and played for them during which time he picked up the nickname "Clyde" because he wore a similar hat to Warren Beatty who played Clyde Barrow in the 1967 movie Bonnie and Clyde. He was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team in 1968. He was an NBA All-Star seven times (and was named MVP of the 1975 NBA All-Star Game), was named to the All-NBA First Team four times, the All-NBA Second Team twice, and the All-Defensive First Team seven times. With Frazier, the Knicks captured the NBA championships in 1970 and 1973. After 10 years in New York, Frazier ended his career as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals against the LA Lakers, widely known for an injured Willis Reed's inspiring appearance onto the court, it was Clyde who was the unsung hero putting up an astounding 36 points and 19 assists leading the Knicks to their first NBA championship.
In 1971, the New York Knicks traded for fellow NBA guard Earl "the Pearl" Monroe to form what was known as the "Rolls Royce Backcourt" with Frazier. While there were initial questions as to whether Frazier and Monroe could coexist as teammates, the duo eventually meshed to become one of the most effective guard combinations of all time, leading the Knicks to the 1973 NBA championship. That pairing is one of few backcourts ever to feature two Hall of Famers and NBA 50th Anniversary Team members.
Frazier held Knicks franchise records for most games (759), minutes played (28,995), field goals attempted (11,669), field goals made (5,736), free throws attempted (4,017), free throws made (3,145), assists (4,791) and points (14,617). Center Patrick Ewing would eventually break most of those records, but Frazier's assists record still stands.
Frazier was also one of the first players to make stealing the ball an art form. He would make sudden steals and surprise the offense. When asked about his defensive success, he answered that he did not believe in contact defense. Instead, he defended in such a manner that it appeared he was not playing defense. When he did so, the offensive player was often tricked into letting his guard down whereby Frazier would steal the ball with his quick hands.