When the Spurs added Bruce Bowen to their roster for the 2001-02 season, it was not because they needed scoring.
Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Steve Smith and a teenage rookie named Tony Parker did plenty of that.
“People said I couldn’t hit the side of a barn with a beach ball,” he said.
Nevertheless, Bowen started every game he played that season because he was the perimeter defender the Spurs needed to slow the game’s most gifted perimeter players.
Bowen earned the first of eight straight NBA All-Defensive honors that season, and on Monday the Spurs announced another honor for the 6-foot-7 forward from Cal State-Fullerton: He will be the seventh Spurs player to have his jersey number retired.
Bowen’s No. 12 will be lifted to the rafters at the AT&TCenter in ceremonies after the team’s March 21 game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
For a player with a career scoring average of 6.1 points per game, it is an honor beyond belief.
“For me,” Bowen said, “this is better than the Hall of Fame.”
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Bowen’s consistent approach made him special.
“Bruce did the same thing night in and night out, whether it was a preseason game or a championship game,” he said. “That’s just who he was. That’s why we want to honor him, because that’s a quality that’s not understood by a lot of athletes these days, that persistent pounding to get to where you want to be.”
While it is clear the Spurs primarily are recognizing Bowen for his defensive excellence, he became a reliable 3-point shooter during his eight seasons in silver and black, especially from the corners. He led the NBA in 3-point accuracy in 2002-03, 44.1 percent.