Norm Nixon is one of the more forgotten Los Angeles Lakers of the 1980s. The drafting of Magic Johnson moved him off his normal point guard position, and Nixon was ultimately traded before the 1984 season for the draft rights to Byron Scott, as a way to free up Magic.
Many are though of before Nixon, but on Nov. 30, 1982, he was the center of attention in a ridiculous game. The Lakers were in San Antonio to play the Spurs.
With just three seconds left and the Lakers down two points, Nixon was at the free throw line with one shot to come. This is where the controversy comes in. Nixon made his shooting motion, but didn’t actually shoot the ball.
Essentially, he faked a free throw, causing players from both sides to move into the lane. The official called a double lane violation and a jump ball. The Lakers would win the jump ball and Nixon hit a shot to tie the game, sending it into overtime.
The Lakers went on to win the game, 137-132, in double OT, but that result would not stick.
The Spurs protested the finish, claiming that since Nixon never shot the ball there could be no lane violation and thus, no jump ball. They believed the referee should have simply reset the players in the lane and allowed Nixon to take his remaining free throw.
Ultimately then-NBA Commissioner Larry O’Brien (yes, the one the championship trophy is named after) upheld the protest, forcing the game to be restarted with three seconds left, Nixon at the line, and the Lakers down two.
It was replayed before the teams’ next meeting in San Antonio, which wasn’t until April 13, 1983.
Upon the restart, the Lakers were unable to convert and fell to the Spurs, 117-114. Nixon led the Lakers with 23 points and 11 assists, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar finished with 21, James Worthy had 20 and 10 rebounds, and Johnson had 17 points, eight rebounds, and nine assists.
The Spurs were led by Mike Mitchell who scored 25 points, while Artis Gilmore and Gene Banks each had double-doubles. But with this game the numbers were really inconsequential.
A fake free throw, a buzzer-beater, two overtimes and in the end none of it mattered thanks to a protest that would never go down in today’s NBA.
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