By Andy Charles

The NBA has lost one of its finest defensive specialists after Bruce Bowen decided to hang up his sneakers this week after 12 seasons.

Bowen made the little-publicized All-Defense team (imagine the post-game parties for that one!) five times while playing for the San Antonio Spurs, where he will be fondly remembered for his part in winning three championships.

His time in Texas eventually came to an end last season as a three-team trade ended up seeing him go to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Richard Jefferson – the Bucks would buy out the rest of his contract soon after.

Bowen’s rise to a triple champion was an unlikely one, as he was basically unconsidered as a prospect at Cal State Fullerton and went undrafted before beginning his professional career in France.

His breakthrough came in the 2000-1 season with Miami, his free scoring days behind him, as a place on the All-Defense second team (better parties we hear!) earned him a lucrative contract with the Spurs.

As well as his defense, Bowen’s three point shooting ensured him playing time with San Antonio, and made sure that his collection of on-court enemies would start – Vince Carter, Steve Nash and Ray Allen among those opponents to start claims that Bowen was dirty.

But last season would prove to be the end for Bowen as his playing time dipped and in the need for more offense, coach Gregg Popovich sought to add a scorer like Jefferson who could also provide some defense, although not on Bowen’s level.

“You need to do things to better the business, and the Spurs definitely got better in the players they received, so I’m looking forward to continuously supporting the Spurs, but at more of a distance now,” he told NBA.com.

“I’ve been thinking about this for the last five years. Each year it put more thought in my head, as far as maybe the time is nearing.”

Defense might not win the plaudits from the fans, but Bowen’s importance to the Spurs cannot be underestimated and it will be interesting to see how basketball betting expects them to do without him this coming season.

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