The next installment of ESPN Films’ 30 for 30 Shorts premieres today on Grantland.com, showcasing basketball Hall of Famer Walt “Clyde” Frazier’s unique fashion and broadcasting style.
Director Nelson George tells Front Row how this short compares to the long-form documentary he directed last year, The Announcement, and why he chose to tell Frazier’s story.
How would you compare directing a full-length documentary to a short like Disdain The Mundane?
Directing The Announcement took me into a variety of worlds: the world of the Los Angeles Lakers’ Showtime era, the late ’80s/early ’90s Los Angeles and the world of HIV activism. With Disdain, it was very focused on one man’s very special view of himself and style, both on court, dressing and in use of language. Magic Johnson’s story took place on a large canvas. Clyde’s piece is very intimate.
What did you learn from directing The Announcement that helped you on this particular film?
The chief connection between the two is that both men were the playmakers on championship teams, so you can’t make them say what you want them to say. They lead the conversations, like they were guiding a team. You just have to wait for Magic and Clyde to pass you the ball.
Why did you choose this topic?
I’m a life-long Knicks fan. I saw Clyde play at Madison Square Garden once when I was child and was there the night they retired his number. His shoes were style touchstones on Brooklyn playgrounds a generation before Air Jordans.
Since you are a journalist by trade, what do you think of Frazier’s vocabulary?
I love hearing Clyde broadcast Knicks’ games, but until we sat down to do this film I never knew how much he’d studied to build his word power. He used the New York Times as his personal vocabulary gym.