- Category : Sports-Basketball
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 6/3 - Role Model / Martyr
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : LAX Confrontation 1
Bruce Eric Bowen Jr. (born June 14, 1971) is an American former professional basketball player.
Bowen played small forward and graduated from Edison High School and Cal State Fullerton. He went on to play for the National Basketball Association's Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, San Antonio Spurs and the Continental Basketball Association's Rockford Lightning, and also played abroad in France.
One of the most feared perimeter "lockdown" defenders in NBA history, Bowen was elected to the NBA All-Defensive First and Second Teams eight times, and was a member of the Spurs teams that won the NBA championships in 2003, 2005 and 2007. Off the court, Bowen became an informal ambassador for child obesity awareness. He currently works as an analyst for ESPN.
Bruce Bowen Jr. was born in Merced, California as son of Bruce Bowen Sr. and Dietra Campbell. Bowen had a problematic childhood growing up in Merced, because, he claims, his mother took drugs and even sold the family TV to feed her habit.[ Bruce Jr. spent his days playing basketball and eventually became a star in the local West Fresno Edison High School squad. He then played four seasons at Cal State Fullerton, appearing in 101 games, and averaged 11.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. After averaging 16.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 36.6 minutes in 27 games as a senior in 1992–93, he was named to the All-Big West Conference First Team. Bowen ranks 12th on the Titans' all-time list in career points (1,155) and is seventh all-time in rebounds (559).
Early struggles (1993–1997)
After finishing his four-year college eligibility, Bowen was eligible for the 1993 NBA draft, but went undrafted. Instead, he seemed to be destined to become a journeyman athlete. Between 1993 and 1997, Bowen played for five different teams, starting his professional career for the French teams of Le Havre in 1993–94 and Évreux the following season. In 1995–96 he played in the CBA with Rockford Lightning; he spent the next season back in France with Besançon, before returning to the Lightning in February 1997. Bowen made his NBA debut when he was signed to a ten-day contract by the Miami Heat the following month. His output consisted of 1 game, 1 minute and 1 block.
Getting settled (1997–2001)
In the 1997–98 NBA season, Bowen reappeared in the NBA, having been signed by the Boston Celtics. With the Celtics, Bowen slowly established himself in the NBA. In his first full year as an NBA player, he appeared in 61 games (nine of them as starter) with the Celtics, averaging 5.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.43 steals in 21.4 minutes per game, shooting .409 from the field, .339 from three-point land and .623 from the free throw line. The next year was a disappointment for him, as Bowen appeared in only 30 Celtics games, averaging 2.3 points and 1.7 rebounds in 16.5 minutes per game.
In the 1999–2000 NBA season, Bowen signed with the Philadelphia 76ers, and was later traded to the Chicago Bulls and immediately waived, then picked up off waivers by the Miami Heat. In that season, he wore jersey #12 instead of #30 and appeared in 69 games, averaging 2.8 points and 1.4 rebounds in 12.7 minutes per game, and scored in double-figures six times. In the following year, Bowen was retained by the Heat. 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) than 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.
San Antonio Spurs (2001–2009)
In the 2001–02 NBA season, Bowen was signed by the San Antonio Spurs. He joined a championship-caliber team, led by veteran Hall-of-Fame center David Robinson and young power forward Tim Duncan, complemented by talented role players like Steve Smith, Malik Rose, Antonio Daniels and point guards Terry Porter and Tony Parker. Bowen established himself as a starter, beginning in each of his 59 regular-season games. In that season, Bowen received his first of several fines: he had to pay $7,500 for kicking Wally Szczerbiak in the face during a March 1, 2002 game. In the 2002 NBA Playoffs, Bowen started in all 10 Spurs playoffs games, where the team eventually succumbed to the Los Angeles Lakers. For his feats, Bowen earned himself his second All-Defensive Second Team nomination, although some peers and sports analysts accused him of being a "dirty" defender.
In the next season, Bowen started in all 82 regular season games for the second time in his career and averaged 7.1 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 31.3 minutes per game. Again, he was voted into the All-Defensive Second Team and was a member of the Spurs team which won the 2003 NBA Finals. At age 31, the one-time journeyman Bowen had won his first championship ring as a starter. In the following three seasons, Bowen established a reputation as one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, earning three straight All-Defensive First Team elections and ending as runner-up in the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award votings twice, losing to post defender Ben Wallace.
Having established himself as the premier defensive backcourt player, Bowen's effective, but hard nosed style of play came under discussion. In particular, rival guards Vince Carter and Steve Francis accused him of encroaching into their landing space during their jumpshot. Inside Hoops columnist M.J. Darnell commented: "They're whining because Bruce Bowen has frustrated, upset, hurt or angered them in some way.... He just plays tough, physical defense, does not play with any intent to injure, but isn't afraid to get in someone's grill". Bowen's defensive style failed to help this Spurs squad repeat in the 2004 NBA Playoffs, as the team was eventually defeated 4–2 by the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Semi-Finals.
Bowen and the Spurs bounced back and won the NBA title in 2005, defeating the Detroit Pistons. The Spurs could not win back-to-back titles, however, and bowed out 4–3 in a seven-game series against the Dallas Mavericks in the 2006 NBA Playoffs. As a testament to his controversial style of play, Bowen picked up a $10,000 NBA fine for kicking Ray Allen in the back during a March 2006 game.
In the 2007 NBA Playoffs, the Spurs played against the Phoenix Suns, and Bowen became the center of controversy. His knee contacted Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash's groin, knocking Nash to the floor. Also in that series, forward–center Amar'e Stoudemire accused Bowen of kicking him during a game, but the NBA reviewed and dismissed the claim. ESPN columnist Bill Simmons commented that Bowen was "a cheap player who's going to seriously hurt someone someday", but Simmons also acknowledged that Bowen "ultimately makes his team better." The Spurs went on to beat the Suns, and Bowen's defense contributed to the Spurs winning their fourth championship in the 2007 NBA Finals.
In the 2007–08 NBA season, the now 36-year-old veteran Bowen played and started in 81 of 82 regular season games, earning his fifth straight nomination in the NBA All-Defensive First Team Ever controversial, Bowen was fined $7,000 and suspended for one game for kicking Chris Paul after Paul had fallen to the floor during a March 12, 2008 game. Bowen finished as the runner-up behind Marcus Camby for the league's defensive player of the year award. In the 2008 NBA Playoffs, Bowen was unable to stop Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who averaged 28.3 points and helped L.A. beat the Spurs in five games. Bowen started in every Spurs regular season and playoff game from 2001 to 2008.
The 2008–09 NBA season was to be Bowen's last with the Spurs. Although he played in 80 regular season games, he was no longer a starter as was the case in the previous seven San Antonio campaigns. His minutes were also greatly reduced (from 30+ to 18.9 per game), although his shooting numbers remained consistent. The Spurs went into the 2009 NBA Playoffs with a 54–28 record and as the third seed. With influential shooting guard Manu Ginóbili out injured, the Spurs got off to a bad start to the series and eventually lost 4–1 against the Dallas Mavericks, bowing out of the playoffs in the first round for the first time since 2000.
On June 23, 2009, Bowen was traded along with Kurt Thomas and Fabricio Oberto to the Milwaukee Bucks for Richard Jefferson. He was released on July 31, 2009 and retired on September 3, 2009.
On March 21, 2012, the Spurs retired Bowen's #12 jersey. Bowen's jersey is the seventh retired by the Spurs. With Bowen's blessing, the Spurs unretired the number 12 for incoming free agent LaMarcus Aldridge in 2015.
In 2006 U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski invited Bowen to join the United States men's national basketball team, which participated in the 2006 FIBA World Championships in Japan. At 35, he was the oldest player to participate; Krzyzewski said that the team needed a defensive player like Bowen. However, Bowen received little playing time, despite the injuries of fellow swingmen and guards Antawn Jamison, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade. Although he participated in several training sessions and training camps, Bowen was eventually cut from the team. He expressed disappointment and said he hoped to make the 2008 Olympics squad, but was not named to the team in the end.
Bowen (no. 12) contesting a layup in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers in 2007
The 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m), 200 lb (91 kg) Bowen played the small forward, and occasionally the shooting guard, position. He had a reputation for being one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, earning himself eight consecutive nominations for the NBA All-Defensive First and Second Teams from 2001 to 2008. From 2005 to 2007, he was second in voting for the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award, beaten only by centers Ben Wallace (2005 and 2006) and Marcus Camby (2007) who are both post defenders.
Bowen was not known for his offensive production. He was seldom sought on offense, having never attempted more than 600 field goals in an entire 82-game regular season, and his career averages of 6.4 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game, and .566 foul shooting were considered mediocre, never earning him nominations for NBA All-Star or All-NBA First or Second Teams. His foul shooting, in fact, was poor enough that he was at times been made the target of the Hack-a-Shaq defense. However, opposing teams could not leave Bowen wide open on offense, because he was also an accurate three-point shooter (.393 career average on 2,082 attempts), particularly from the corner. In addition, despite his age Bowen played 500 consecutive games between February 28, 2002 and March 12, 2008, leading Sports Illustrated to name him in 2007 the "Iron Man" of the NBA.
Bowen was also known for his dirty play on defense. While Bowen to this day denies these claims, it is no secret that his style of play bordered on illegal. Many NBA players of his generation have publicly questioned his defense. On more than one occasion, his defense led to the injury of prominent scorers when he "accidentally" walked under the shooters as they attempted a jump shot resulting in rolled ankles among other injuries. On other occasions, Bowen can be seen attempting to trip players on layups. Bowen however must be credited with his ability to avoid whistles on these plays as they were often subtle enough to avoid ref calls during the live action of a game.
Bowen is the son of Bruce Bowen Sr. and Dietra Campbell. He told a reporter of having a problematic childhood, plagued by his mother's drug addiction and his father's alcohol problems. Today, Bowen is estranged from his parents and several relatives, instead looking up to his childhood friend Quinn Crozier and to Robert and Sandra Thrash, a Los Angeles couple whom he regards as his adoptive parents. In 2004, Bowen married Yardley Barbon, a Miami native of Cuban descent, and the couple had two sons, Ojani (born September 7, 2005) and Ozmel (born June 9, 2007). The two divorced in 2012.
He often speaks out against child obesity and runs his own "Get fit with Bruce and Buddy" program for children's healthy nutrition and daily sports activities. He is a fan of the Dallas Cowboys and the University of Texas at Austin Longhorns football team. He runs the Bruce Bowen Foundation, an organization set up to provide scholarships and bursaries. In 2006, he received a college degree in communications from Cal State Fullerton; he had also taken classes at the University of Texas at San Antonio. He has stated that he wants to become a teacher.