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Happy birthday to the classic #12, Bruce Bowen

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The one jersey to hang in the rafters and still be on the court.

NBA Finals Game 7: Detroit Pistons v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images

When I joined Pounding The Rock, I pitched a project that would cover every player who ever wore a Spurs jersey. Not equally, by any means, but each jersey would be identified numerically by the players who wore it.

There is a significance to the numbers of jerseys as it pertains to the five NBA Championships that have been won by the San Antonio Spurs.

There is only one jersey number associated with all five San Antonio Spurs NBA Championships- #21. Tim Duncan. He is coincidentally also the only player to be involved in all five titles.

There are five numbers associated with four Spurs titles. #9 (Tony Parker) and #20 Manu Ginobili, as well as #2, #4, and #11.

The next set of jersey numbers are those associated with three of the Spurs NBA titles.

Those numbers are 3, 5, 8, 12, 17, and 33. Today we look at #12.

#12

Bruce Bowen

Cleveland Cavaliers v San Antonio Spurs, Game 2 Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Before Bruce Bowen joined the Spurs and got into his trademark #12, five other players had donned the jersey: Mike Gale, Kevin Williams, Darwin Cook, Jeff Lebo, and Matt Othick. After Bowen’s retirement, Othyus Jeffers wore #12 for one game in 2011. In the end, Bruce Bowen owned #12.

Not only did Bowen find a home in San Antonio, he started in every game he played over the next seven seasons and became one of the most consistent and feared lockdown defenders in the league. His infamy would expand beyond protective perimeter competitor, as accusations from his opponents labeled his aggressive style menacing and reckless. But night after night, Bowen presented the kind of commitment that has defined the Spurs core and culture. After 500 consecutive games played as a Spur, Sports Illustrated listed him as an Iron Man in 2007. His dedication to defense was essential to the success of the Spurs during his eight seasons. But Bruce Bowen went beyond his comfort zone to become a lethal 3-point shooter.

But Bowen was not without controversy and his character was often called into question. He was accused of dangerous closeouts when defending jump shots, leaving the shooter with nowhere to land. On occasion, he picked up flagrant fouls. In a few of those cases, he was fined by the NBA as well as assessed a flagrant.

Tough or dangerous, Bowen earned five consecutive All-Defensive First Team honors while coming in second as Defensive Player of the Year to Ben Wallace in 2005 and 2006. Incidentally, in 2006 Bowen came in second and Duncan came in third in DPOY voting. He also garnered three consecutive All-Defensive Second Team honors. With defense as a specialty, the offensive contributions were icing on the cake.

Bowen’s time with the Spurs came to an end when a trade sent him, along with Fabricio Oberto and Kurt Thomas, to Milwaukee for Richard Jefferson which then led to his being waived. A month later, Bruce Bowen announced his retirement.

On July 9, 2015, the San Antonio Spurs won the free agency lottery and signed LaMarcus Aldridge. As a “Welcome to San Antonio” gift, Bowen un-retired his jersey and offered #12 to Aldridge. The number has been active since.

Since retirement, Bowen served as an announcer to the Los Angeles Clippers for a while and was consequently released after he made some critical comments regarding Kawhi Leonard’s handling of the trade requests out of San Antonio.

Last year, Bruce Bowen returned to San Antonio, this time a head coach of the Cornerstone Christian School Men’s Basketball.

Today, Bruce Bowen turns forty-nine years old.

Happy birthday, Bruce!


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