A class act that was always a team player on the court and off

Bruce Bowen retires from the NBA

Bruce Bowen retires from the NBA

By Gregory Moore

If you ask any San Antonio Spurs fan who is their favorite player, you’ll get the usual chorus of David Robinson, Tim Duncan and even Sean Elliott or Tony Parker.

Yeah Manu would be in there too and you might even get some ‘old school’ names like Larry Kennon, the Ice Man or James Silas.

But if you ask that same individual who do you think is one of the classiest Spurs players of all time, Bruce Bowen’s name usually is at the top or just below the Admiral.

Bowen’s reputation wasn’t always this pristine in the NBA fandom but then again Bowen wasn’t on a team where ‘good guys’ were actually cool.

Before Bowen was a Spur, he was with the Miami Heat and his reputation was that of a “goon” or enforcer.

He was Pat Riley’s muscle on defense and when he played, you knew something ‘bad’ was going to happen; that is for the opposition.

In reality what you found from the 6’9″ product from Cal State Fullerton was once a scoring machine but was not ‘NBA’ material when he turned pro.

Bowen was a hard worker and after playing in FIBA and the CBA, he caught on with the Heat and slowly began to make a name for himself as a defensive specialist.

As quoted in the Wikipedia about Bowen’s last year with the heat (2000-2001 season), “In that year, he had his breakout season. For the first time in his career, he played in all 82 regular season games, averaged 7.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.01 steals in 32.7 minutes per game and set new single season career-highs in games, points, rebounds, assists, blocks, minutes, field goals made and attempted, three-point goals made and attempted and free throws made and attempted. Bowen logged more minutes (2,685 vs. 2,678), scored more points (623 vs. 606) and hit more threes (103 vs. 54) then he had in his first four seasons combined. Especially, Bowen earned himself a reputation as a defensive stopper. For his strong perimeter defense, he was voted into the All-Defensive Second Team.”

The following year Gregg Popovich signed him to the Spurs and for the next eight seasons, Bowen became known as “Bruuuccceee” by the fans.

I’ll never forget the first time Bowen played for the Spurs.

The team was still at the Alamodome and as I walked out of the tunnel headed to the media table with SpursReport.com’s Dusty Garza, we tried to come up with a nickname for the latest Spur player. A season ticket holder overheard our conversation and she said, “why not call him the B2 bomber?”

Now while that really didn’t make a lot of sense writer wise, it was a sort of catchy because of his name and the fact that Bowen also had a knack of dropping three point shots from the left corner.

The B2 Bomber moniker didn’t stick but the fans chanting his name of “Bruuccee” sometimes sounded like he was being booed.

Far from it.

Bowen became a fan favorite almost immediately and to this day he is a favorite no matter where he goes.

But what many fans don’t realize is that Bowen was also a great intervier.

Many times after a tough loss, I would go over to his locker and get quotes simply because I knew he would give me what I needed; an honest assessment.

The phrase of “it is what it is” is consummate Bowen speak.

The fact that he didn’t mind sometimes being the spokesperson in the locker room just endeared him to the media cadre even more.

So when the Spurs traded him back in June to Milwaukee for Richard Jefferson, I didn’t have anything to worry about.

Two things were going to happen: either he was going to return a Spur or retire.

Well the guy who had a tough childhood decided to become the consummate family man instead and who can blame him.

For eight seasons I have had the privilege of interviewing him after the game or practice when I attended them.

For eight seasons I’ve watched him go about his blue collar work ethic on the court that would make any high school coach proud.

And for eight seasons I’ve watched him not only do his job well but also help bring a much needed attention to a franchise that was and still is, doing everything right.

Will he be missed by myself, other media counterparts and fans?

Sure he will.

But then again this is what we expect from guys who play for the Spurs and make San Antonio home.

We expect them to stay here long after their playing days are done.

They are a part of the San Antonio family.

Bruce has always been a class act both on and off the court and I’m proud to say that for eight seasons I have had the opportunity to get to know him as both a player and a human being.

While I’ll miss him after this season’s games, I know that I’ll get the chance to see him in town and over at his business with his wife.

So thanks Bruce.

Thanks for showing a young sports writer/columnist what class as a professional athlete looks like and thanks for helping my hometown become ‘Title Town USA” in the NBA.

Thanks for being a guy who is not only a great spokesperson but also a pretty good dancer too.

We Spurs fans and media types will miss your defense on the court but we also know that there are professional athletes who come into our lives with the class and character that makes us proud to be fans of our teams.

Enjoy your next career in life and we’ll be looking for #12 to be in the rafters soon.

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