Bruce should probably be categorized under "Top Celtics Who Kind Of Were", because he was with Boston for 2 seasons. He's on this list is because, while The Celtics may have had THAT Bruce Bowen, they really could have used the evolved version of Bowen. The one that we all remember.
Bowen was born in Merced, California and suffered through a tough childhood. Bruce's mother was addicted to crack and, according to Bowen, sold the family television to support her habit. To make things worse Bruce Sr. was a severe alcoholic. With trouble at home he turned to basketball as a way to get away and temporarily forget about his problems. He would star at West Fresno Edison High in the late 80's, his performance there earned him a scholarship at Cal State Fullerton. Bowen would play all 4 years at Cal State. After his senior season was named to the All-Big West Conference First Team.
Despite averaging 16.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 2.3 dimes per game as a Senior, Bruce went un-drafted in the 1993 NBA Draft. It wasn't too much of a shock as his Titans went 15-12 that year. Most future-NBA athletes either post huge stats on losing programs, or decent numbers for teams that make the tournament... Bruce did neither.
After going undrafted, Bruce Bowen ended up playing from 93-95 in France. That offseason he was signed by The Miami Heat but was ultimately cut before the season began. After failing to make the NBA Bruce played the following year in the Continental Basketball Association, only to end up back in France by '97. Bowen may have been was playing basketball professionally, but his NBA hopes were starting to fade away.
Then in March 1997 Bruce Bowen was once again signed to a 10 Day Contract by the Miami Heat. Miami won 61 games that season and were looking for players to close out the final regular season while starters rested. Bowen and St. John's graduate James Scott were also used as bodies in practice. The Heat would lose in the Eastern Conference Finals to Michael Jordan's Bulls, but stories of Bowen's game had gotten around the league. Bruce Bowen was signed by Rick Pitino and The Boston Celtics before the 97-98 NBA Season. At 26 years old Bruce Bowen finally made his first real NBA Debut (he had previously only played 1 minute, of 1 game).
That season The Celtics would struggle but made strides towards being a Playoff team, notching 36 wins compared to the previous years' 15. The Team highlight of the season was opening night at home with a win over The Defending Champion Chicago Bulls. Ironically Bruce's individual season highlight also came against against Chicago. In a 97-87 loss, Bowen played 30 minutes, scored a career high 16 points, and stole the ball 5 times.
Bowen also played the 1998 season for The Celtics but with Walker, Mercer, and rookie Paul Pierce all logging 34+ minutes a night he lost minutes. After winning 36 games the year before Boston would go only 19-31 in the strike shortened 98-99 season.
Going into the 1999 season Bowen decided that Boston wasn't the place for him. He signed with The Philadelphia 76ers. Apparently Larry Brown also underestimated Bruce's value. In 42 games with Philly, Bruce played less than 14 minutes in 15 of them. Bowen was shipped off to The Bulls at the deadline but would be cut before appearing in a single game. Once again Bowen was pulled from the scrap heap by Pat Riley and the Miami Heat, only this time he actually got to play in the playoffs. Bruce only scored 35 points in 10 games but flashed the defensive tenacity that he would come to be known for.
After starting 72 games for the Heat in 2000, Bruce Bowen would sign with San Antonio before the 2001. At 30 Years old Bruce Bowen Jr. finally found his NBA Home. For the next 8 Seasons he would absolutely thrive. Bowen would come to be known as a lock down defender, a clutch three point shooter, and despite being considered dirty... he was a player that every Championship contender would love to have.
In 2009 The Spurs moved Bowen as part of a deal to acquire Richard Jefferson from Milwaulkee. Bruce never played for The Bucks, instead opting to retire. It is rumored that Boston was interested in acquiring the player who made his first start for the Celtics 12 years earlier... but ultimately Bruce decided he was done.
Bruce Bowen retires as one of the best perimeter defenders in NBA History, winning 3 consecutive All-Defensive 2nd Team honors, followed by 5 consecutive All-Defensive 1st Team honors. He was also an Iron Man as he only missed 3 games in 8 years with San Antonio. Bowen won 3 NBA Championships and played in 135 career Playoff Games.