Giving Bowen His Due
This last week has been exciting for Spurs fans. Between trading for Richard Jefferson and drafting DeJuan Blair, most of us have been caught in a state of exuberance that borders on delirium. But amidst all the optimism, I failed to give proper recognition to one of my all-time favorite Spurs: Bruce Bowen.
Bowen is currently a Milwaukee Buck, although some (including myself) suspect he will be cut in the coming days. Many of us originally thought Bowen would readily resign with San Antonio but according to some reports, his relationship with Popovich deteriorated this past season, making his return unlikely (I was unable to find the link to the original report but I believe a Portland assistant coach who is close with Bowen said Bowen was not interested in returning to the Spurs).
Whether or not Bowen ever suits up in the silver and black again, I will always be deeply appreciative of his contributions.
During his prime, Bowen’s brilliance on the defensive end of the floor could not be overstated. People do not often talk about defensive plays as acts of self expression, although I have repeatedly argued that they can be seen as such. Bowen is one of the players who makes this conception possible. Game after game he quietly nudges the act of defense beyond craft towards the more lofty title of art.
For some, Bowen is the epitome of a boring player. He even failed to accrue the standard amount of blocks and steals, the shiny medals that adorn the coat of supposedly good defenders. But in his empty stat lines I don’t see the absence of excitement, I see the elegance of minimalism. How many times have I watched Bowen take the floor and suddenly, like some top-hatted turn-of-the-century illusionist, he makes his assignment disappear. And yet, beneath this simplicity lurks an almost baroque commitment to detail. It is fitting that his greatest antagonist was Kobe Bryant: Both of their styles are conceived along microscopic terms.
I haven’t even begun to address the role Bowen played in the San Antonio community and I’m not going to. I am writing this because I believe Bowen has played his last game in a Spurs uniform. But I don’t believe he has given back to the city of San Antonio for the last time. I have no doubt in my mind that the Bruce Bowen Foundation will continue to foster self-respect, confidence and responsibility amongst the young people of central Texas. I am not going to eulogize his generosity and civic-mindedness; they are alive and well.
I will say this: No other San Antonio Spur deserves the right to wear #12. Before too long I better see his jersey hanging in the rafters alongside Robinson et al.
I’ll miss you, Bruce.