When Dahntay Jones slid under Kobe Bryant, that brought the whole NBA fan base into the discussion and made it a hot topic for days.
The discussion of "should a foul have been called?" and "was it a dirty play?" were the main themes in the debate and ESPN's First Take wasn't a stranger to it either. In fact, they asked one of the most popular San Antonio Spurs of all time to the table to voice his opinion on the play.
Bruce Bowen will be regarded as one of the best defenders of his team (and probably all-time) among media and fans alike, but he also had his controversial past.
While Skip Bayless and Stephen A.Smith believe Jones' foul was dirty in different ways, Bowen does have a point in the discussion.
Before this comes off as homerism, you have to look at the situation Jones was in and the many different possibilities for his actions.
As it was said, Dahntay Jones is only in there as a defender, just like Bowen was when he played. This already makes for an unpopular situation for the player because he's in there for one specific reason: to stop the other team's best player.
In most cases, it's a very popular player who's getting the media spotlight like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Kobe Bryant in this situation. All you really see is a guy playing hard defense and occasionally bumping a popular guy trying to score.
The term "you hate him when he's playing against you and love him when he's on your team" fits perfect for any hard nosed defender like Jones. Bowen is also right that labeling Jones a dirty player may effect his career and image, something that Bowen had experience in throughout his career.
Now I'm not saying Bowen didn't have his share of controversial moments. He does say he never purposely went under player's feet, but he did admit that situation occurred when he was boxing out (something that players are taught right when the ball is released). Bowen had an incident along the lines of the Jones-Kobe incident with former New York Knicks guard Steve Francis.
As you can see, Bowen had a similar situation with the exception that he jumps to contest while Jones slides under Bryant. I don't think Bowen did it intentionally nor do I think he played defense with a mentality of constantly hurting people. If Bowen was a dirty player, he would've hurt more players throughout his career than he did.
As Bruce pointed out in the First Take segment, Kobe initiated the contact and Jones was trying to protect his space and Bowen was in that situation too. Bowen has a case where he was looking to box out his guy and Francis may have changed his shot and motion as Bowen was larger and longer than him on the court.
There could also be a case made for Jones' actions in that play. Once he went to the contest, he turned to look at the basket while still moving to Bryant. With Bryant kicking his leg out, he may have thought he could get an offensive foul called in his favor. He could have also expected Kobe to keep more hang time and land farther away on the fade away than he did. He may also have had the first instinct Bowen had in that he should box out his player, even if it was the last play of the game.
Again, I'm not stating that the play wasn't a foul or making excuses for Jones' play but, like Bowen, we can't jump to conclusions in labeling Dahntay Jones a dirty player. There's been dirty plays this season that have been in plain sight and they weren't given as much attention like this one. Serge Ibaka's "how do you do?" punch to Blake Griffin's privates is one that's obvious and that didn't get as much as this one or as much criticism as Jones.
There was also the famous Raja Bell clothesline on Kobe Bryant during the 2006 playoffs, another play that was an obvious dirty play. Ibaka does and Bell used to do multiple things on the court, while Jones is strictly a defender like Bowen.
Like Bowen, this label may haunt him throughout his career when an accident occurs on the court.
Was there a foul? The majority of everyone fan base will say yes. Is Dahntay Jones a dirty player? The question was best answered by Bowen. We don't know what Jones meant in that situation, but to label him a dirty player is doing him an injustice. We should let his career as a whole explain his play.
Bowen had his controversies, but he is respected for his play as he should be.
Even some of the players who hated playing against him ended up naming him one of the best teammates they ever had (i.e. Michael Finley). For now, we should all be able to agree on one thing and that's accidents happen and the NBA isn't immune to that.