Suns foes: Bye bye Bowen

Suns fans will never have to see Bruce Bowen on the US Airways Center court again, why couldn't this have been the case five years ago? (REUTERS/Rick Scuteri)

Suns fans will never have to see Bruce Bowen on the US Airways Center floor again. Why couldn't this have been the case five years ago? (REUTERS/Rick Scuteri)

The Phoenix Suns will finally never have to endure elbows to the sternum, knees to the testicular region, and stomps to the Achilles from ex-Spurs forward Bruce Bowen ever again; the only problem is, his retirement came just a couple of years too late.

Suns arch nemesis Bruce Bowen, 38, announced his retirement to the San Antonio media this afternoon. After being dealt to Milwaukee in a trade that brought Richard Jefferson to the Spurs, Bowen was waived and was expected to sign with a championship contender. Instead he obviously opted to hang up his shoes, and more importantly his dirty play.

As Suns fans very well know, Bowen helped bring three championships to San Antonio, two of which could have easily gone to the Phoenix Suns. I can’t help but loathe all of the times that Bowen’s foul play resulted in a Suns missed shot, turnover, or technical foul that ultimately led to a Spurs victory.

Yes, the news of Bowen’s NBA exit brings a smile to my face, but it also reminds me of all of the heartbreak No. 12 and his running mates bestowed upon the Suns.

The below-the-belt knee to Nash in the 2007 playoffs along with the continual tripping and kicking of Amare Stoudemire were all integral elements to a Spurs team that so frequently snatched the NBA championship from the Suns.

Needless to say, Bowen’s unruly play and big shots made him undoubtedly Suns fans’ most hated player during the so-called Seven Seconds or Less era. Bowen’s hatred in Phoenix got me thinking about some other players that easily land on the “Phoenix Suns hate list.” The list of players from the early 90’s to present day is as follows:

1. John Paxson — No, Paxson never kneed any Suns downstairs or hip-checked them into a scorer’s table, but it is his game-winning three-pointer in Game 6 of the 1993 Finals alone that lands him No. 1 on the Phoenix Suns hate list.

The ’93 team was set to head to Game 7 of the NBA Finals until Paxson sunk a left-wing three-pointer with three seconds left to put the Bulls up one. Paxson is by no means a bad guy and is even a solid VP of Basketball Operations for the Bulls, but when a player single-handedly takes the Larry O’Brien trophy out from under you, he will never be forgiven.

2. Robert Horry — For many citizens of Planet Orange, “Cheap Shot Bob” may be No. 1 on this list. What some Suns fans forget is that the Horry hatred began long before he put on a Spurs uniform. Horry killed the Suns with big three-pointers in his days with the Rockets in the mid-’90s, but his falling out in Phoenix grew even greater when he was sporting the purple and orange after being traded from Houston to Phoenix. During the 1996-97 season, Horry threw a towel in the face of then-Suns head coach Danny Ainge. Horry was quickly traded to the Lakers for Ced Ceballos after the incident.

Sure, Horry killed the Suns with a slew of big shots throughout his tenure with the Spurs, but it was the big hip check that has Suns fans losing sleep at night. During Game 4 of the 2007 West Semifinals, Robert Horry blasted Steve Nash into the scorer’s table, leading Boris Diaw and Amare Stoudemire to leave the bench and ultimately be suspended for Game 5 of the series (thank you, David Stern). The 2006-07 Suns team was a special group, and if Horry never checked Nash into the scorer’s table who knows how far they would have gone? My guess is NBA championship.

3. Bruce Bowen – (See above)

4. Mario Elie — As most Suns fans distinctly remember, in Game 7 of the 1995 West Semis, Elie knocked down a corner pocket three with seven seconds left to complete Houston’s comeback from a 3-1 deficit. It was not just the shot and elimination from the playoffs that still haunts Suns fans, it is the Kiss of Death that Elie blew to the crowd after sinking the game-winner. And wouldn’t you know it, the man who threw the pass to an open Elie was none other than a young Robert Horry. Ironically enough, Elie played his last game in the NBA in a Suns uniform before retiring in 2007.

5. Jerry Stackhouse – Readers may be wondering, why is Jerry Stackhouse on this list? Just to refresh your memories, in Game 2 of the Suns’ second-round matchup vs. the Dallas Mavericks in 2005, Stackhouse came from behind and  sent Joe Johnson barreling to the floor as he rose up for a dunk attempt. Johnson fractured the orbital bone in his face and was forced to miss the rest of the series. The Suns won this series 4-2 despite the injury, but JJ was unable to return to the lineup until Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals against the Spurs.

Without Johnson, the Suns lost the first two games of the series and were eventually eliminated by the Spurs, 4-1. Were the Suns a Joe Johnson away from an NBA championship? I think so.

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