Norm Nixon Was Convinced He’d Be a Member of the Boston Celtics in 1977
Former Los Angeles Lakers point guard Norm Nixon enjoyed a 10-year NBA career, making two All-Star appearances and capturing a pair of championships.
Drafted by the Lakers with the 22nd pick in the 1977 NBA Draft, Nixon wasn’t all that crazy about heading West to begin his NBA career. He believed he’d be suiting up for the Boston Celtics, who had the No. 12 pick. The Celtics eventually passed on the Duquesne guard. Did they make the right move?
Norm Nixon enjoyed a stellar NBA career in Los Angeles
Nixon enjoyed a four-year college career at Duquesne, averaging better than 20 points in his junior and senior years. As a guest on former Lakers teammate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s podcast debut, Nixon believed his professional career would begin in Boston with the Celtics.
“I didn’t want to come out here to Los Angeles,” Nixon admitted to Abdul-Jabbar on Skyhook: The Podcast. “I’m from Georgia, and I wanted to play in Atlanta or New York.
“I thought Boston was going to draft me because I worked Red Auerbach’s camp, and they took me out of the college league, and they put me in with the pros. I was surprised that they didn’t draft me.”
Instead, the Celtics went with Cedric Maxwell, a forward out of UNC Charlotte. Nixon fell 10 spots later and found a home in Los Angeles.
Nixon spent his entire NBA career in LA, playing for the Lakers and the Clippers.
He was an All-Star in 1982 with the Lakers and in ’85 with the Clippers. He won championships in 1980 and 1982 with the Lakers.
Various injuries derailed his career, but he still managed to put up 15.7 points and 8.3 assists in his 10 seasons.
Did the Celtics make the right move in letting Nixon slide?
While Nixon had an outstanding NBA career, Maxwell did, too. After a rookie season in which he averaged 7.3 points in 16.8 minutes, the 6-foot-8 Maxwell put up some big numbers.
In his second season, he put up 19.0 points and 9.9 rebounds. The following year, rookie Larry Bird came on board, but Maxwell still averaged 16.9 points and 8.8 rebounds.
Before the 1980-81 season, the Celtics swung a trade with the Golden State Warriors, acquiring center Robert Parish and the No. 3 pick, which they turned into Kevin McHale. With Parish and McHale on board, the Celtics knocked off the Houston Rockets in the 1981 NBA Finals. Maxwell was the series MVP.
Maxwell played 11 years in the NBA, eight with the Celtics. Like Nixon, he won a pair of championships. He and Nixon later became teammates on the Clippers.
Did the Celtics make the right move in selecting Maxwell? Although Nixon would have made sense because Boston had aging Jo Jo White and Dave Bing at point guard, along with Ernie DiGregorio, Maxwell was a better fit.
The following season, the Celtics traded for veteran Tiny Archibald to solidify the point guard position. Maxwell’s experience allowed McHale to come off the bench early in his career. Max came up bigger as the games did. In addition to his ’81 Finals MVP, he led the Celtics in scoring in Game 7 of the 1984 NBA Finals against the Lakers.
Neither Nixon nor Maxwell will likely complain about how their time in the NBA panned out. Neither will the Celtics nor the Lakers.