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P&T Book Club: "Rockin' Steady: A Guide to Basketball & Cool" by Walt Frazier & Ira Berkow

Before I review the book, I'll give you a moment to absorb the ampersand-laden headline.

Now let's begin! Originally released in 1974, after Walt Frazier's second championship season with the Knicks, "Rockin' Steady" has since been re-released by Triumph Books much to the delight of the entire population of Earth. I recently acquired the 2010 re-release as a Christmas present and tore through its 144 pages like Frazier, the patron saint of Posting & Toasting and creator of its very namesake, tore through the 1970 Lakers in game 7 of the NBA Finals (to save you some time, he went off for 36 points on 17 shots, 19 assists, 7 rebounds and 5 steals). Boy, did I learn a lot about Frazier, Basketball, Life and culture in the 1970s.

Walt "Clyde" Frazier, who earned his nickname by wearing the same fedora hats worn by a character in the film "Bonnie & Clyde" before it even came out, grew up the oldest of about 70 children (nine) in Atlanta. He was a better football player in high school than basketball player, and went halves on a 1949 Ford with his best friend in high school. He spent his formative hoops years bouncing a ball on a dirt court filled with rocks and taking particular care of his looks. Here are some of the finer things I took from the book:

  • Walter Frazier used to smoke a pipe in college. He had trouble concentrating on his studies, so he bought a eight different tobacco pipes and his grades went up. Get used to none of these making much sense, but all of them tickling the part of your brain that processes both joy and sensuality.
  • Walt Frazier drinks scotch and water, but doesn't really drink. When he was growing up, he used to be told at parties "Drink it or wear it!" So he he would consistently get beer and liquor poured on his head.
  • Included in the book is a scouting report on most guards in the NBA during the 1974 season. He has about a paragraph of about each guard, and included in "Pistol" Pete Maravich's is the following information: "With his hair flying, you sort of wait for him to stop dribbling. Then for a second all the hair that's been flying in the wind comes down over his face and he can't see. That's when you steal the ball." Normally your instinct would tell you to write this seemingly insane and useless information off and disregard Pistol Pete's hair completely. Then you realize Frazier is perhaps the best defensive guard in the history of the game and he specialized in steals, eclipsing five per game with regularity. This is the time in which you realize the world is simpler than you think, and your blood pressure lowers.
  • A section of the book is entitled "Grooming Secrets." It contains 13 paragraphs.
  • Another section is entitled "Hook Shot." It contains 7 words.
  • One time in middle school, Frazier walked onto the court in his warm-ups without his shorts on underneath. He pulled his warm-up pants halfway off when he realized he had on only a jock strap. This partial glimpse singlehandedly caused the baby boom.
  • According to Frazier, the most similar current player to Earl "The Pearl" Monroe is Baron Davis.

The writing is simplistic, dominated by simple sentences. The paragraphs aren't necessarily set up in the most logical order, he repeats himself a couple of times, there is as much information on catching house flies are there is about his time after the NBA. But none of this really matters. If you fancy yourself a Frazier fan, a Knicks fan, a basketball fan, or a sensible human being; buy or borrow a copy of "Rockin' Steady." The full-page photographs and simple but profound wisdom from a self-described "loner" make the book worth it alone. The detailed insight into the inner-workings of the 1970s Knicks put the book over the top.

It was not used as literature in an Afro-American Studies course at Yale University for nothing. Walt Frazier has always embodied the meaning of "cool," and whether he is breaking down specific basketball qualities of his fellow NBA guards or dissecting his specific wardrobe choices, he expresses it in every word.

"Rockin' Steady" is pure treasure & pleasure.