Saturday, September 05, 2009

Only Losers Play Clean

Warning: Spurs post.

By now, you probably know that one of the greatest defenders of the last decade, Bruce Bowen, has retired. Nobody questions his on-court skills, so instead, they'll sling ad hominem attacks. They'll call him dirty. They say he kicked players (e.g., Ray Allen and Chris Paul), kneed other players in the groin (e.g., Steve Nash), and that he stepped in too close while defending, tripping up guys coming down from a jumpshot. My personal favorite is the jumpkick.

Watching that video, I count six allegedly dirty plays, one of which isn't nearly as clear cut as Bruce's notoriety suggests. (Watch the replay. Definitely not as clear as Rajon Rondo's facemask of Brad Miller.) But here's the deal: Bruce played over 24,000 minutes in 873 games, averaging 27.6 minutes per game over his career. During his tenure as San Antonio's starting small forward, he averaged 31.2 minutes per game. He played all 82 games six times, including 500 in a row from February 28, 2002, until March 14, 2008. He missed one game for a suspension, then played the next 107 games. It's hard to play that long, that much, that intensely without stepping on a few toes, literally and figuratively.

Some call Kobe Bryant dirty. Others call Saint Timothy a stealthy brawler and accuse Tony Parker of flopping. But think about who's calling whom dirty. David Thiessen of might put it best:
Bowen and Kobe probably had as many high profile match ups as any two players over the last decade, yet we have never heard Kobe accuse Bowen of being a dirty player.
You see, there are the elite, who have consistently dominated over the past ten years, and the also-rans, who never quite had enough gas. Maybe the also-rans accuse the elite of playing dirty so they don't have to admit they don't have what it takes.

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