Are Magic Johnson and Norm Nixon Friends in Real Life?

Image Credit: Warrick Page/HBO

Magic Johnson and Norm Nixon are names etched into the memories of LA Lakers and basketball fans. The duo is known for being a part of the LA Lakers’ “Showtime” era during the 1980s and was influential in the team’s success on the court. However, the duo’s depiction in HBO’s sports-drama ‘Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty‘ might cause some to speculate that there was a rivalry between the two. The second season, in particular, marks a low point in Magic and Nixon’s term as teammates. As a result, viewers must be curious to learn whether Magic Johnson and Norm Nixon are friends in real life, and here is everything we know in that regard!

Are Magic Johnson and Norm Nixon Friends?

The LA Lakers drafted Magic Johnson during the 1979–80 NBA draft. The 6 feet 9 inches Point Guard came into a squad that already featured Norm Nixon as its starting Point Guard. The Lakers had signed Nixon in the first round of the 1977 NBA draft, and he was an important player for the team when Magic Johnson came in for his debut season. As a result, it was obvious that Magic and Nixon playing in the same position would lead to them sharing the ball and minutes on the court.

Image Credit: Warrick Page/HBO

‘Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty’ fictionalizes the 1980s LA Lakers. The first episode hints at a rivalry between Magic and Nixon when they face off one vs. one before Magic’s rookie season. Moreover, in the second season, the tension between Magic and Nixon rises when Magic returns from a lengthy knee injury while Nixon has delivered thunderous performances in the former’s absence. Things escalate after Nixon makes insulting comments about Magic in the press, and the latter retaliates similarly. Magic and Nixon also feud in the locker room before important matches.

In reality, the “pick-up,” which is an important plot point of the first episode, never happened. Nixon has himself gone on record to confirm that he and Magic never played against each other one vs. one while playing for the Lakers. As for the feuding between Magic and Nixon in the second season, the incidents seem to be taken from the book ‘Showtime’ by Jeff Pearlman, which acts as source material for the series. In the book, Pearlman mentions that an article published in the LA Times on March 31, 1981, quoted Nixon badmouthing Magic.

Pearlman also states that Nixon clarified his statements, but Johnson resented his teammate and turned standoffish. However, the book does not mention any locker room drama or further feuding between Johnson and Nixon. “I think it bothered him, and then the perception was there that Nixon can’t play with Johnson. And once a perception exists, it’s awfully hard to change that. It turns into fact. Unfair and unfortunate, but true” Nixon is quoted in the book, explaining the effect of the article LA Times on Magic Johnson.

The book also reveals that Magic and Nixon did share a kinship during their time with the LA Lakers. As it turns out, the Point Guards shared positions and love for partying. In a 1981 article published by the Philadelphia Daily News, Nixon expressed his frustrations over the initial adjustments he had to make while playing with Magic. However, Nixon stated that once they gelled on the court, they also formed a bond off-court. Therefore, it is safe to say that Magic Johnson and Norm Nixon had shared a friendship since the early 1980s when they played for the LA Lakers.

Nixon and Magic played together between 1979 and 1983, winning two NBA Championships with the Lakers. Nixon was traded to the San Diego Clippers at the start of the 1983–84 season. He eventually retired at the end of the 1988–89 season. Magic Johnson announced his retirement in 1991 but returned to the game sporadically until 2000. Magic and Nixon have made several public appearances together since the end of their playing careers and have spoken highly of each other in the press. As a result, it is evident that there is no love lost between the former teammates, and whatever minor differences they might have had in the locker room did not affect their friendship in the long run.

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