Sunday, September 6, 2009

Love Him, Hate Him, Respect Him

Bruce Bowen officially retires from the NBA after a 12 year career. Bruce is a controversial figure, the type of player that is either loved or hated, however, before we start the name calling, we should consider his accomplishments.

First, how many players with limited offensive skills and with a career shooting average below 40% have managed to stick in the NBA for 12 years? How many of us have been at our current job for 12 years? Bruce Bowen’s longevity alone should garner respect.

Secondly, Bruce earned eight consecutive votes to the NBA 1st or 2nd All Defensive Team from 2000-2008 and he was an integral part of the Spurs three Championships (2003, 2005, 2007).

Also, let’s not forget that Bruce Bowen had a streak of 500 consecutive games played that only ended when he kicked CP3 in the family jewels. He was the Cal Ripken Jr. of the NBA for the past decade. Finally, although Ruben Patterson boasted that he was the “Kobe-stopper”, it was actually Bruce Bowen who presented Kobe with the greatest individual challenge.

It wasn’t as if Bowen could stop Kobe in a one-on-one play, not many can, but what Bowen possessed was uncanny lateral speed and an active set of hands that rarely presented Kobe with an uncontested shot. Additionally, Bowen knew how to play team defense, often funneling his opponent, including Kobe, toward help defenders. While some may see his physical style as an irritant, a distraction from the game of one of our greatest players, remember that all of the great ones had their nemesis: that one opponent that really got under their skin. Jordan had Starks and Kobe had Bowen.

The NBA makes its money on the backs of spectacular offensive plays by the likes of Kobe and Lebron. It’s no secret that high octane offense sells tickets. In fact, the best selling merchandise comes with printed numbers or images of the players who can flat out score. It’s a business and that is understood, but as a fan of the game there is nothing more appealing than a game that features a little defense, a little grit, a little Mutumbo finger wagging. To this end we should all tip our hats to Bruce Bowen because great defense is what he brought night in and night out for 12 years. In the end regardless of whether you love him or hate him….. you have to respect him as one of the great defensive players of the past decade.