When Nixon left basketball for good three years later, he made a seamless transition to life's next stanza. He helped Allen launch the Debbie Allen Dance Academy (DADA) in Culver City, Calif. He logged major minutes with his three kids, Vivian, DeVaughn and Norman Jr., now ages 17 to 22. He founded Nixon & Associates, a management firm that has represented entertainers such as LL Cool J and TLC and represents four current NFL players, including Bengals wide receive Peter Warrick. ("I understood contracts, I understood collective bargaining," Nixon says, his deep voice dripping with smooth, "and I understood the percentages!") More recently he began a vending machine business that specializes in nutritious snacks and has been a radio commentator for the Clippers and an NBA analyst for ABC's local affiliate.
Businessman, commentator and sports agent are natural second careers for a man who, over 10 seasons in the NBA, was known for being bright, perceptive, and occasionally combative. Nixon had a modest profile when the Lakers drafted him out of Duquesne in 1977. Within three years he was a seminal member of Showtime, helping take the franchise to the 1980 NBA championship and enjoying the trappings of an A-list L.A. bon vivant. Still, he felt he never quite got his due as a player, and he wasn't shy about conveying as much. The classic Nixon story: After the Lakers won the NBA title in 1982, he was asked by coach Paul Westhead to play in the L.A. Summer League, normally the province of rookies and journeymen. "Sure, Paul," Nixon said. "Just have Kareem pick me up on his way out there."
On Oct. 10, 1983, the night before his 28th birthday, Nixon was traded to the Clippers, the Lakers having decided that Magic Johnson could handle the point guard duties just fine. Knowing that he was going from the equivalent of the cast of Fame to a Wichita polka troupe, Nixon spent the night drowning his sorrows with Jack Nicholson and Burt Bacharach. Though he made the 1985 All-Star squad as a member of L.A.'s other team, his profile never quite recovered. "People were like, 'Man, what happened to you after you left the Lakers?'" To this day, he signs his autograph NORM NIXON #10 LAKERS.
Nixon turns 50 this fall (though he could pass for 20 years younger). He has stopped recruiting clients for his talent agency and has designs on working full time as a basketball commentator. "You know how you can't really talk about what it's like to face a 95-mph pitch unless you've actually done it?" he says. "Same with basketball. There are a lot of nuances you only really get if you've played at the highest level. I was there." --L. Jon Wertheim