There is an old saying about Hollywood, career arcs and directors' casting demands that goes something like this: "Get me
Bowen, 38, won't make it into the Hall of Fame. He might have to wait to see his jersey number retired by the Spurs, the team he helped to championships in 2003, '05 and '07. But he exits the playing scene having achieved a distinction that only a special handful has managed in league history: Bruce Bowen leaves as an archetype.
There have been far fewer pro-basketball archetypes across the years than there have been Springfield inductees, Top 50 honorees, All-NBA selections or certainly All-Stars. Only those with special games, styles or bundles of skills need apply. Yet it can't be so rare that it veers into one-of-a-kind territory; there has to be some opportunity for others to follow down that particular path, prototype first, copies later. In other words, we're talking about a player who is unique -- but not
A simple way to gauge this is to stick "-type" onto the back end of a player's name and see if it means something to a typical NBA fan. Consider
For a while in the 1980s and '90s, teams actively sought "
Going further back, coach
Mostly, though, it's positive, which is the case with Bowen. Actually, Bowen's backstory could serve as a prototype as well, standing for all those players who went undrafted by an NBA team out of a school such as Cal State Fullerton, knocked around Europe and the CBA, got signed and waived a time or three, then finally found a home and a career at age 30 (Bowen landed in San Antonio as a free agent in 2001). But it is his front story -- as in, in other guys' faces, right up in their grills -- that we think of now.
What Bowen brought to the Spurs was every bit as essential during their run of titles and Finals appearances, particularly to coach
Sufferers such as
Dirty? At times it sure looked that way -- and Bowen was too good an athlete to pass those moments off as being clumsy. But he was tough, consistent and almost Eddie Haskell-like in his placid expressions through the most physical encounters. And like a single spoonful of castor oil, a little went a long way -- the
Bowen was named to the All-Defensive team in each of his first eight full NBA seasons. He was runner-up three times for Defensive Player of the Year, though he never won the award that's worthy of being named after him. That doesn't really matter -- what matters is that teams determined to chase a championship feel compelled these days to find a "Bruce Bowen-type" of guy: a clingy, even irritating defender who, for long stretches or whole nights, can negate a dangerous weapon from the other guys' arsenal. Now, from
Some of the players are slightly different in size or build (
Summing up his career in his retirement session with reporters, Bowen said: "I hope my legacy would be as someone that never was satisfied with just being where they were."
His legacy goes well beyond that. From inside the offensive man's jersey and head, all the way to "-type" status.