Bruce Bowen's Exit Leaves the NBA a Cleaner Place

Matthew BrownCorrespondent ISeptember 27, 2009

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 17:  Bruce Bowen #12 of the San Antonio Spurs rests on court against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on February 17, 2009 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Bruce Bowen made a name for himself as a hard-nosed defender in the NBA. He is considered to be one of the best perimeter defenders, willing to get in the face of any shooter or ball handler he was designated to guard.

And maybe he kicked a couple of players.

Bowen was never much of an offensive threat during his career, but he didn't have to be. With the Spurs, he had plenty of firepower around him where he could be the ultimate shut-down defender.

Bowen had the luxury of being on a Spurs team that was built to win with or without him. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili didn't need Bowen to really win. They had Robert Horry to hit the big shots.

Bowen was just on the team to take out the best player the opposition had to offer.

Among Bowen's victims are Steve Nash, Allen Iverson, Wally Szczerbiak, Amare Stoudemire, Vince Carter, Steve Francis, Ray Allen, Jamal Crawford, and Chris Paul.

Among Bowen's offenses are kneeing opponents in the groin, kicking opponents in the calf, back and face, and generally flailing around in an attempt to do some damage to another player.

Bowen is probably best known for the nasty habit of trying to roll opponents' ankles when they are landing from a shot, or simply making a cut to the basket.

Throughout his career with the Spurs, Bowen was always touted as one of the best defenders the team had and was considered an integral part of their NBA Championships.

The question is did Bowen earn the reputation because he never backed down from an opponent, or because he was just that good at getting away with a lot more than anyone saw him try?

Now Bowen is retired and he has taken his dangerous foot with him. At this juncture, it is impossible to tell what Bowen's legacy will be.

In the hearts and minds of experts, he will go down in history as one of the best defenders in the NBA during an offensively dominant era for the league. Fans and players will know better, though.

Does Bowen make it to the NBA Hall of Fame on defensive merit, or do his many run-ins with league officials taint his otherwise average NBA career?

One thing is certain now that Bowen is gone from the NBA, players like Stoudemire, Nash, Carter and Iverson won't have to worry about landing on any foot that isn't theirs.