In the end, the fact that Bruce Bowen was essentially sacrificed so that the San Antonio Spurs could have a better chance at winning another championship was somewhat symbolic of what he meant to the team.
When Bowen was traded to Milwaukee this offseason as part of the deal to get Richard Jefferson, I expected he would eventually get bought out and return to the Spurs as a minimum-salary player, similar to Antonio McDyess spending five minutes on the Nuggets last year before returning to the Pistons. But realistically, there wouldn’t have been much room for Bowen in the team’s rotation, which is why he became expendable in the first place. After drawing some interest from contenders like the Celtics and Cavs, Bowen ultimately decided to walk away from the game at 38 years old, which he announced in a press conference earlier today.
“It was just about being able to say, ‘All right, it’s done,'” Bowen was quoted in the San Antonio Express-News. Bowen said he already had an audition with ESPN earlier this week, and will talk to TNT soon.
With three NBA championships, eight NBA All-Defensive selections, and always a crucial part of the Spurs’ offense with his corner threes, Bowen will go down as one of the greatest role players of his era and one of its top defenders. And, whether you think he deserves it or not, he’ll also be remembered as one of the League’s dirtiest players. He was a self-made pro, an undrafted wing out of Cal State-Fullerton who played in France and in some American minor leagues before finally getting his shot in the NBA. Eventually changing his style into a defensive lock-down specialist, Bowen found his niche and grew into a champion. And even at 38 and clearly declining, he could still get on a roster if he wanted to.
Bowen isn’t a Hall of Famer, but do you think the Spurs should someday retire #12 in his honor?