Few Tears for Bruce Bowen's Retirement
The Rash is gone.
Like all defensive nuisances, Bowen has garnered a lot of respect around the league. While he never managed to win a Defensive Player of the Year award (Ben Wallace won four during Bowen's peak), the Rash did get voted to the NBA's All Defense team eight straight seasons, including five seasons on the first team. The Spurs themselves, from Gregg Popovich to Tim Duncan, have always championed Bowen's dedication and defensive skill. Even some opponents have begrudgingly acknowledged the passionate defense the Rash displayed over his career.
But you get a nickname like "The Rash" for a reason, and to be quite honest Bowen earned it. It's hard to argue that Bowen's grab-push-pull style didn't help force the NBA to adopt its more stringent hand-check rules earlier this decade, preventing defenders from, well, checking offensive players with their hands. Bowen's rep for hand-checking his adversaries was so great that Lakers coach Phil Jackson publicly dubbed the Spur "Edward Scissorhands."
But Bowen did his biggest damage with his feet. Ask Wally Szczerbiak.
Isiah Thomas called Bowen dirty for undercutting Jamal Crawford, later telling his Knicks players to break Bowen's neck or foot. (What Zeke actually said is disputed.) The undercutting accusation has been made by several other high-level players over the years. Amar'e Stoudemire said Bowen attempted to injure him during a playoff game by kicking the back of his Achille's tendon. In that same series, Bowen was given a flagrant foul for kneeing Steve Nash in the crotch. Bowen's shots on Ray Allen (including a well-documented post-whistle kick to the back) led Allen to dissolve the pair's friendship. Vince Carter claims Bowen intentionally injured him with an undercut in 2004, ending Carter's season, and attempted to do the same thing in 2005.
The oeuvre is massive. The nickname was earned. And while Bowen is said to be a great guy -- generous, kind and sharp -- in his personal life, he was no picnic on the basketball court. "Good riddance" isn't quite the right sentiment, but he should know that most of the NBA will not miss him.
For Bowen, that's probably a compliment.