The San Antonio Spurs are one of the most respected franchises in the NBA. From drafting or developing players to the front office making savvy free agent acquisitions to winning multiple NBA titles, the Spurs have done it all and done it the right way.
In this offseason as we all await for the new season to start, it’s a good time to look back, take a break, and reminisce on some of the players who wore the silver and black in the past. Players who worked hard, persevered and did it the right way. Two who come to mind are Artis Gilmore and Bruce Bowen.
Let’s talk about Gilmore first. It’s not a stretch to say that Gilmore was one of the league’s most intimidating centers during the 1970s and 1980s. Although he was perceived as a gentle giant by many, the truth is he was a fierce competitor, especially in the post.
His best years in basketball may have been in the ABA, but his time with Spurs should not be overlooked. He fit right in and helped the Spurs to win two straight division titles.
During the 1982-83 season, Gilmore repeated as the league field-goal percentage champ (62.6%) and returned to the All-Star Game. Over a three-game stretch in March of that season, Gilmore piled up 96 points and 35 rebounds. The teams’ 53-29 record was the best since the franchise joined the league in 1976. San Antonio advanced to the conference finals for the second straight year that season.
The 7-2 Gilmore averaged 16.1 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game in his five years with the San Antonio Spurs. That stat line speaks for itself; but what’s more impressive about it, is that he was able to put up those kind of numbers towards end of his career.
Perhaps it was not winning a title or his low-key, no hype personality that continue to be reasons he is overlooked by the Basketball Hall of Fame committee, but the “A-Train” deserves some recognition.
On the other hand, Bruce Bowen made a name for himself for playing tough defense. Bowen’s NBA career was not an easy path. He was an NBA journeyman during the early part of his career playing for teams like Miami Heat, Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers before finding a home in San Antonio.
It was with the Spurs where Bowen got his break. He started 59 games during his first year with the Spurs averaging 7 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists while shooting 38.9% from the field and 37.8% from the three-point line. In his second season in San Antonio, he played and started all 82 regular season games and shot a career best 44.1% from beyond the arc. That was the first of three championships he won with the Spurs.
Bruce Bowen’s contributions to the Spurs cannot be measured by stats alone. He was assigned to contain the opposing teams’ best scorer and occasionally hit the corner three when the game is on the line. And because he was so great and tough on the defensive side of the floor, opposing fans viewed him as a villain, a master of cheap shots and sneaky shoves.
Amar’e Stoudemire once insisted Bowen purposely kicked him in the playoffs. Dirk Nowitzki said after a physical playoff game that it was the Spurs who had a dirty player, not Dallas. But his reputation as a dirty player is unfair.
In reality most players are just frustrated because Bowen played great defense. While others complained, Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant always respected him and relished their matchups. I think Bowen’s career could be summarized by these words. ”It’s not how you start but how you finish.” The way it ended in San Antonio where he helped to win three NBA titles is a testament to him.
Both players have played excellent basketball for the most part of their respective careers and have given their fair amount of time giving back to the San Antonio community. Maybe a year or two from now the “A-Train” and Bowen will get what they truly deserved and that is for their jerseys to be up high in the AT&T Center rafters and possibly even enshrined to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
What do you guys think? Did we miss a former Spur who deserves their jerseys to be retired? Leave us a comment.