The shoe resonated with young kids at the time. The Clyde retailed for $25 in 1974, and many kids saved up to buy the shoe. “You had to sacrifice like it was something special,” Frazier recalls. “If you got a pair of Clydes, you were taking the money out of your savings to get those shoes. A lot of people tell me that today.”
The Puma endorsement was just the beginning of Frazier’s off-the-court excursions. He started Walt Frazier Enterprises with his agent Irwin Weiner in the ’70s. The company specialized in player services, negotiating an eight-year, $3 million deal for Julius Erving with the New York Nets and a six-year deal for George McGinnis with the Indiana Pacers. “LeBron now has his company, and that’s what I was doing 30 years ago with Walt Frazier Enterprises,” says Frazier.
Frazier and Puma’s relationship has endured the growing and evolving sneaker business. The brand has brought Frazier back at different times for re-releases of the Puma Clyde, and the break dancing craze in the 1980s reawakened interest in the shoes. Just last year, Puma signed Frazier to a lifetime contract.
Later on, the brand released a new shoe titled the Puma Clyde Court Disrupt. It is an updated shoe that pays homage to the Puma Clyde. Players such as DeMarcus Cousins, DeAndre Ayton and Knicks rookie Kevin Knox have all worn the shoe this season. “I couldn’t believe it, because they couldn’t even drop me with the players that they have now,” says Frazier. “They have all these young first-round draft choices, they got Jay-Z and all these different people with them now. But they didn’t forget their past and what I did for the shoe.”
Does Frazier’s name still resonate with a younger audience that never saw him play? One could argue that Frazier is probably better known today for his flashy attire as the color analyst of the New York Knicks broadcast on MSG. Still, Frazier’s story connects Puma’s first foray into the basketball market with its current rebirth.
“The story is always important, today more so than ever,” says Powell. “When you come out with a shoe that’s brand new, you can’t just say ‘OK, here’s the Air Matt’ and it’s going to be a big deal. You have to have a story around it that the consumer can relate to.”
Frazier sees the deals that today’s players are signing and realizes how he impacted sports business in a major way. Kevin Durant signed a ten-year, $300 million deal with Nike in 2014, and LeBron James signed a lifetime deal with Nike believed to be worth more than $1 billion. Several other players, such as Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry and James Harden, have signed for eight figures annually.
“I just sit back and smile,” Frazier says. “This thing I started, I’m the catalyst for this stuff. I always tell people ‘Long before the Air Jordan there was the Clyde.’”