Bruce Bowen may have learned his trade as a professional basketball player in Europe for a couple of years, but it didn’t make him a foreigner when he finally made his NBA debut in 1997. In fact, in his first season in the league, Bowen already displayed his tenacious defensive skills, recording his career-best 1.4 steals per game.
Since then, Bowen gradually became one of the best defenders of his generation, having been often tasked to stop the opposing team’s best scorers. However, due to his notable lockdown defense, Bowen soon earned a reputation of being a San Antonio Spurs bruiser and a dirty player.
It is what it is
To this day, some may still remember Bowen as a villain, or the annoying guy who often clamped NBA superstars such as LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. None of it surprises Bowen.
In fact, according to the man himself, everything we saw was an unfiltered reflection of who he truly is as a player and as a person. And the rest was all created by the media.
“It’s who I am,” Bowen told SB Nation in 2013 when asked to comment about his “dirty player” image. “When you get betrayed by the media, it hardens you. Reporters will do whatever it takes to get the story, be nice when they need to be, but then go back to ripping you. It’s the reality of the game. I was mature enough to understand, to take the good and the bad. People’s negative perceptions of me are because of the media, it influences the viewer. They judge a book by its cover, living in the moment. Media discusses what’s hot, newsworthy at the time, and that may not be about reality. And when people would see me doing good deeds out in the community, they would assume it was all for show, just one day when I’m a good person.”
Bowen added he's confident in everything he does and the impact he has "in the community." The fact your average NBA fan thinks of him when "dirtiest players ever" lists are made, as Bowen sees it, is a media product. So, what are the things he does in the community?
The other side of Bruce
Apparently, Bowen was speaking facts. Unbeknown to some, the 13-year NBA veteran has been doing a lot of good things outside the basketball court.
To name a few, Bowen has been an active member of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, Max Lucado, Oak Hill’s Minister, and was also a guest speaker for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) in San Antonio, the largest Christian sports organization in the United States that mostly works with athletes and coaches in its endeavor to make a difference in the community.
Looking back at it now, we totally understand why Bowen could care less about what the media say about him. But being a good man off the court does not prove he played it fair on the court. It does prove there's more to Bruce Bowen than planting a foot under a jump-shooter - which is his signature move.