I'm not one of those basketball fans that automatically links the game with hip-hop or with the so-called "street culture", but as a fan of the game I have to recognize this:
Bowen and Artest are the fiercest players in the league.
You may call them dirty and say that they're violent, rowdy, etc.. I call them the guys that no player wants to have after his back.
Remember when some said that Ron-Ron and Kobe in the same team would cause a clash of egos and some bad attitude in the locker? Maybe you don't, but I do.
Imagine how Artest would lock guys in a Finals match down. Imagine him chasing Pierce up and down the court.
Artest may be dirty sometimes, yes, but he's more than a dirty player. He's effective. He can shut anyone down. It does not matter who you are, Ron will lock you down.
He is the kind of athlete that goes in a tournament and thinks: "I'm the best", even if he isn't.
He may be arrogant, but look at this example:
If you had to choose a player to lock you down, who would you chose?
You would not chose Bruce Bowen or Artest definitely.
I played in a lot of U-16 basketball matches, and in our league there was this one guy that was as hard as Ron or Bowen and I had the bad luck of meeting him a lot of times.
He wasn't even the biggest or strongest guy on the court, he was actually quite shorter than me; some three inches or so (I'm 6'3), but he was the only guy that was not afraid of anyone.
And damn was he effective!
He would chase you up and down the court, push you when you were trying to get rid of him and he would not be tricked with a simple crossover.
Passing through him was always something close to a highlight reel play.
That's what happens with Artest or Bowen.
Players respect guys like Garnett and Shaq and Duncan, but they're afraid of Bowen and Ron Artest.
They play with heart and that's what you need when playing defense.
The only skills you need as a defender is running, jumping and mental strength. Nothing more and nothing less.
If you're quick, fast, and athletic then you have everything to be a great defender.
Bowen is dirty. Remember when he had that thing, of putting a foot right in the spot where the player would come down after a jumper?
That was not dirty. Where do the rules say that such a play is prohibited?
It's like saying: "Don't do it again, or else..."
Intimidation is more than half-the-way in a defensive matchup and that's the truth.
Remember Rodman? He is one of the legends in defensive matters. A beast!
Wait. Scratch that. He is the beast.
How many players would dive head-first for a ball?
How many players would manage to intimidate you in one or two plays?
Well, only Rodman, Barkley (yes, he was also a crazy guy), Artest, and Bowen.
Would you Garnett dive for a ball, head-first? Don't think so.
That is what the NBA lacks these days.
No, it's not balls flying out of bounds for players to dive for.
It's heart and hardness.
NBA players are growing soft. They're too afraid of risking it; of being aggressive. Sometimes aggressiveness is what you need most.
Would LJ dunk all over the place if he had some aggressive players pushing him around?
Don't think so.
The NBA is lacking players who simply go for it, no matter what happens.
And when Bowen and Artest retire, you'll find an empty space. Where are those guys that chase shooters away? That dive for balls head-first? (That image still haunts my head, ever since I was a kid) Players with heart?
Again, I know Ron and Bruce are two bad fellas, but come on. They're not on the court to make friends.
Like some Nike advertiser wisely wrote for Barkley to say:
"I am not a role model. I am not paid to be a role mode. I am paid to wreak havoc on a basketball court."
That is exactly what Bowen and Artest do, they literally "wreak havoc on a basketball court".
So before calling these players dirty, think: Maybe they're the most effective players in man-to-man defense.