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Spurs to retire Bruce Bowen’s No. 12 jersey

Jan 23, 2012, 5:52 PM EDT

Bruce Bowen Getty Images

Bruce Bowen was the guy asked to cover Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Richard Jefferson — whoever was the best perimeter player on the other team. Night after night, playoffs after playoffs.

His elite defense, as well as his reliable corner three, were key parts of three San Antonio Spurs titles, so the team is going to retire his jersey next month, San Antonio announced Monday.

“Bruce Bowen was the premier perimeter defender in the NBA for close to a decade,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich in a released statement. “His success is proof that hard work and determination do, in fact, pay off. Statistics are meaningless when talking about his importance to this franchise. The simple fact is the Spurs don’t win NBA Championships in 2003, 2005 and 2007 without Bruce Bowen.”

Retiring his number is just very Spurs — a guy who was all about team, sacrifice, being the right part of the puzzle and doing his job well. The Spurs have never just been about Tim Duncan and David Robinson (although the Admiral already has his number retired and you can be sure Duncan will someday), they have been about the players and system that go around their stars. Bowen exemplifies that.

The Spurs other retired numbers? Johnny Moore (00), Avery Johnson (6), James Silas (13), Sean Elliot (32), George Gervin (44), and David Robinson (50).

  1. captainwisdom8888 - Jan 23, 2012 at 5:59 PM

    Defense is becoming a lost art, but that never was the case to Bruce Bowen. Any fool playin pro ball can put the ball in the hoop but to pride yourself on stopping another man from doing so is commendable in my book.

    After all, the game isn’t called “Get Buckets.”

    • fcs34 - Jan 24, 2012 at 5:53 PM

      Totally agree. Anyone who’s played basketball knows playing d requires way more mental toughness, stamina and determination then putting up 20 a night. Bowen was a beast, I’d take 3 of him on my team any day.

  2. chargerdillon - Jan 23, 2012 at 6:03 PM

    This guy deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. He is the absolute most underrated defender OF ALL TIME.

    Make no mistake about it, without Bruce Bowen, THE SPURS WOULD NEVER WIN A TITLE. Make any argument about the talent on that team, since Bowen left they’ve been a decent regular season team and a complete no-show in the playoffs because they dont have the defender who shut down other teams big scoreres.

    Go find old footage if you think im wrong, the Spurs won 3 titles because Bowen owned both Kobe and Lebron to get there.

    Since he left, THE SPURS HAVE BEEN GARBAGE. That’s all the proof you need.

    Laker fan here, nothing but respect for Bruce Bowen.

  3. erocknrolla - Jan 23, 2012 at 9:08 PM

    You mean this guy?

    • sasquash20 - Jan 23, 2012 at 10:15 PM

      Did the guy make the shot? Did he play the rest of the game? I love that type of play.

    • mlblogsbig3bosox - Jan 24, 2012 at 4:57 PM

      Bruce Lee Bowen my friends.

  4. adiddie - Jan 24, 2012 at 12:06 AM

    Wally world getting kicked right in the kisser…I love it

  5. spree8 - Jan 24, 2012 at 1:28 PM

    he was a good defender. heck! he was one of the best defenders I have ever seen. But there is no way the guy deserves to be honoured like that. He was a dirty player and i dont mean it in a good way. not ”larry bird dirty” not just giving you the elbows, but kicking you on the achilles tendon regardless your career could be over. there’s no way for me to respect a guy like that. so sorry, no matter how much he meant for the spurs, i wont root for his jersey to be hanging up there.

  6. tcclark - Jan 24, 2012 at 2:23 PM

    This is a classy move by a classy organization. There are two sides to the game of basketball, offense and defense. For years Kobe was the best at offense, and Bruce was the best at defense and no one would argue against the Lakers retiring Kobe’s number. Bruce deserves this as well. Especially when he showed guys like Kobe and Lebron that he was better at defense than they were at offense.

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