The San Antonio Spurs were a dominant team in the NBA. In the early to mid-2000s, the Spurs won three NBA titles in five years. During those years, the Spurs had everything you needed to win a championship. They had coaching, offense, defense, and a good bench.
One player that played an important role on those championship-winning teams was Bruce Bowen. Bowen was known for his defense, and his job was to guard the opposing team’s top player and shut him down.
Bruce Bowen’s NBA career
Before joining the Spurs, Bowen played for four different teams. He was eligible for the 1993 NBA draft but went undrafted. Bowen started his professional career playing overseas and in the CBA for a few years.
In 1997, the small forward made his NBA debut when the Miami Heat signed him to a 10-day contract. With the Heat, he only appeared in one game. The next season, Bowen was signed by the Boston Celtics. With the Celtics, Bowen was starting to establish himself as a player in the NBA. Appearing in 61 games with the Celtics, Bowen averaged 5.6 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.4 steals.
After spending two years in Boston, Bowen spent one season with the Philadelphia 76ers and then two with the Miami Heat. During the 2000-01 season in Miami, Bowen started the most games in his career at 72 games. He averaged 7.6 points that year and was beginning to become known as a defensive player. He made the NBA All-Defensive Second Team that year.
Bowen’s stint with the San Antonio Spurs
In his seventh season in the NBA, Bowen joined the Spurs and was put into the start rotation. He teamed up with Hall of Fame center David Robinson and newly inducted honoree Tim Duncan. The team also had a good supporting cast with Steve Smith, Malik Rose, and Tony Parker.
His first season with the Spurs during 2001-02, he started in 59 games averaging 7.0 points. The next season Bowen was a part of the Spurs team that defeated the New Jersey Nets in the NBA finals. By now in his career, Bowen had a label of being a “dirty defender.” Bowen was the type of defender who was up in your face, and he made the player he was guarding uncomfortable.
Bowen had the task of guarding Kobe Bryant multiple times during his career. Bryant mentioned that Bowen was a player who gave him a tough time. Bowen would go on to win two more titles with the Spurs and finished his career as an eight-time All-NBA Team selection.
Career after the NBA
At 6’7, Bowen was never known for his offensive production. During his playing days, he was often regarded as one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. Through 2005-2007 he finished second in voting for the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Bowen retired in September of 2009. He worked for ESPN as an NBA analyst after his playing career was over. During the 2017-18 season, Bowen was a color analyst for Fox Sports West television broadcasts of the Los Angeles Clippers’ games. In 2019 he was hired as the boys’ basketball coach at Cornerstone Christian School in San Antonio, Texas.
Bowen may not have been an above-average shooter, but he was a top defender in the league for a good portion of his career. His No. 12 jersey was retired by the Spurs and his legacy in San Antonio will always be remembered.