FULLERTON, CA -- The evening was wondrous, reflecting back on his athletic career in Southern California, where he blossomed as a star. For although Bruce Bowen developed a reputation as a dirty player, he was a defensive stopper and, more importantly, he's a humbled and civilized man.
When he walked onto the stage before a rambunctious audience, Bowen gazed at the crowd emotionally. And from there, it was a story to be told, a tribute for the former NBA legend, leaving behind an extraordinary tale for an irrelevant university.
"These moments here is special," Bowen said. "It's special because this isn't somewhere I thought I'd be. This was never planned for me. This wasn't a scenario, where I thought I would be in the Fullerton Hall of Fame."
It was so astounding, so charming. There was Bowen, interacting and reflecting back with old friends and the university that groomed him for professional basketball, the institution that he evolved into a well-accomplished athlete during his college career. He looked stylish in his orange and blue bow tie and tailor-made suit, proudly inducted into the Titan Athletics Hall of Fame late Saturday evening.
"It was a great opportunity to just thank those who've been there all the way for me," Bowen said. "Sometimes, I think in these environments the guys forget it's not about you. I think it's a great opportunity to talk about those who helped you to get to this point."
It wasn't until he became a four-year letterman for the Titans with roughly remarkable credentials, given his professional stardom and intelligent persona, that Bowen rose to prominence at California State University, Fullerton.
It would be an overreaction to call Bowen the dirtiest player of all-time, because more than ever he was the most physical, hard-nosed defender and tried to pester and frustrate players with his ability to contest every shot by putting a hand in someone's face.
In four grueling quarters, he forced turnovers and deflected passes that orchestrated plays in transition. The most compelling defensive star of the San Antonio Spurs formally was an annoying pest many couldn't stand, peeved by his so-called dirtiest and harassment as a shutdown defender. But in the end, he reached a pinnacle not only in basketball but in everyday life, a prototype of canny mentor for children, portraying an experienced role model for youngsters chasing a dream.