Wally Szczerbiak fully remembered the March 1, 2002 encounter when someone’s rubber sole transpires clearly on his face if it was another player he would have thought it was accidental but if the player named is Bruce Bowen everything seems to be intentional. It was not only Wally but a number of players who stood up saying Bowen was a dirty player. Chris Paul tasted Bowen’s patented kick as well as Ray Allen even power forward players like Nowitzki and Stoudamire. To sum it all up a great number of NBA’s superstars all tasted Bruce Bowen’s pesky defense. The 6-foot-7, 200 lbs small forward Bowen was named 8 times NBA all-defensive team and runner-up twice to Ben Wallace and to Marcus Camby as NBA defensive player of the year has marked his name as the NBA’s established perimeter defender.
The San Antonio Spurs won three championship rings (2003, 2005 and 2007) with David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili leading the way but Bowen seems to be the designated player to do all the dirty job a team needs to do. His career averaged of 6.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 39 percent three point shooting isn’t an all-star number but what made him valuable was his commitment on defense and an accurate shooter from corner three.
It wasn’t all laid down to bed of roses for Bowen when he made himself eligible for the 1993 NBA draft coming out from Cal State. He was undrafted and had to play in Europe; changing teams and places to sustain his career. The Miami Heat signed Bowen to a 10-day contract which resulted into a 1 game and 1 minute output. The Spurs took Bowen in the 2001-02 season and the rest was history.
As Bruce Bowen prepares his retirement speech everything came back like a slideshow from his problematic childhood down to his championship days. It was his dedication and most of all his defense that got him his career. “Defense is a little bit of talent and a lot of work; being able to take on the challenge of going up against the top guys, even when you didn’t win that battle. Being able to come back the next day and try again—I think that’s the most important thing.” It was his legacy and like what Bowen said “It’s not how you start but how you finish,” this season will be the start of a Bowen-free season… there won’t be any hand checks, cheap shots or intruding landing space for stars like Kobe or Lebron. We will miss Bowen’s pesky defense… the typical Journeyman who made himself a legacy.