If Nixon wasn't misunderstood in Los Angeles, some of his finer qualities may have been overlooked. "Everything that's ever been written about Norm has said he's a rebel, he's a militant, he's trouble," says Riley. "But he's none of those things. He's just Norm—a very tough and yet in many ways a very insecure man who needs love."
No matter where Nixon goes, it seems there's always someone there trying to fulfill that need. Nixon is single, intelligent, wealthy, good-looking and an impeccable dresser, and women seem to find him irresistible. He's fond of wearing hand-tailored leather pants, particularly for the response they provoke in the sport's more button-down management circles. "There's something about wearing leather pants," he says. "They know you've got to be going somewhere awful to do something crazy."
Nixon has never wasted much energy denying the extravagant claims made by others about his sexual prowess. "They think I bleep five times a day, bleep myself to death," he says. "If I did half the stuff they say I do, I wouldn't be able to play," he says. "People like to speculate about what I do, and I like to let them. It gives them something to talk about."
Playing in San Diego has been an easier adjustment for Nixon than living there. After a month in the motel, he recently moved into the decidedly tonier digs of one of his millionaire friends at the fashionable La Costa resort in Carlsbad, about 30 miles north of San Diego. Nixon's home in the Baldwin Hills area of Los Angeles was recently being occupied by his lady friend, Debbie Allen, the wonderful dancer from the television series Fame with whom he spent part of the summer traveling in Europe. For the time being, that's also where he has left his two dogs, the aquarium full of exotic fish and the trumpet he liked to play to himself when he got up in the morning. "People used to be really shocked when they would come by my house and see I have dogs and plants because they think I'm never home," Nixon says. He insists he is a regular homebody who is never happier than when he is reading a good book. He recently curled up in bed with The Trojan Women, the play by Euripides, not the entire coed population of USC.
According to the book in the NBA, you can't win without size. What's sometimes forgotten, however, is that small is a size, too. Nixon was often overlooked in Los Angeles because he had small size, but with the Clippers he has managed to turn an abundance of littleness into a king-size virtue. Which is to say that little Norman Nixon may have had to go to San Diego to finally become truly big.