Bruce Bowen on tour in India, defends religion in basketball

bruce-bowen-driveFormer NBA player Bruce Bowen has joined the efforts to promote basketball in other countries, such as India. On Oct. 31, Bowen joined a 7-day promotional tour in India, as part of the effort to increase attention and interest for the game.

Bowen is visiting to several cities of India, such as Kolkata, Gurgaon, Chandigarh and Ludhiana to conduct basketball clinics for players and coaches and interact with fans, according to AthletePromotions.

In addition to those visits he will also be making appearances at two premier NBA events in the country, NBA Jam and Reliance Foundation Junior NBA program.

Bowen also reportedly supported basketball players around the world to wear headgear, saying that the game is not for creating any religious strife.

Trouble started in July 2014 when Indian Sikh players – Amritpal Singh and Amjyot Singh – were told to remove their turbans in the FIBA Asian Cup in China.

Bowen says the ruling does not reflect the character of the sport, according to NDTV Sports.

“I don’t think basketball is here to create any religious strife. And I think you have to respect people’s religion more than anything else. I don’t see an issue, but again I am no authority. Guys wear headbands in basketball so it’s not like something has not been on someone’s head before,” Bowen said.

“I had never heard of this. As far as I am concerned, it doesn’t stop the process,” said Bowen, who was promoting NBA as part of the ‘Sprite’ initiative.

The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) did not allow the use of headgear for a two-year trial period but the implementation of the rule was not absolute.

Bowen said that basketball or any other sport should be used to bridge gaps rather than creating them.

“Again this is my opinion and if they allow such things then they only build communication between nations. Because sports is a great unifier. Two players don’t know the language but they communicate through the sport itself and that to me is great. Two governments can’t talk but when it comes to sports, they say ‘just get it on’,” Bowen believes.

“Maybe we should make everything about sport. Basketball is a worldwide leader in creating dialogue in a sporting event,” added Bowen, who is also the ambassador for the game.

The 6’7 Bowen, who retired in 2009 after being considered as one of the most feared perimeter “lockdown” defenders in NBA history, is now an analyst with ESPN and believes that India has a talent for basketball.

“If given an opportunity, I think the NBA is one of the best helpers of getting things established quite like that clong with some of the partners that we have out here in India. From a visual stand point it’s Sony Six that is showing games. Kids who have the energy and excited about learning something different other the No.1 sport here that is cricket. So it’s not about trying to take something away from cricket or football, but trying to give them other options,” he said.

Bowen further said that even though he hasn’t seen the Indian national team play, he was able to notice little things.

“I have been observing and I am watching a kid shoot and watch his follow through. Those are the things that really matter. As you teach kids, some grasp them fast while others are real quick. And I know there are some camps going on but you have kids that are able to grasp hold of things. There is a passion there and that’s what I like in kids and I see it here,” said Bowen.

Insisting that genetics does not play a big part in the growth of a player, Bowen said that even people of small height have had a great impact and thus India certainly stands a bright chance on that front.

“Genetics, to me does not play a big part. Players like Anthony Jerome “Spud” Webb (5’7″) and Tyrone Curtis “Muggsy” Bogues (5’3″ – shortest player to play NBA) have not only made a mark but have been great players. So it’s not about genetics but it’s all about the size of the heart. If you have got the talent then size will never limit you. Yao Ming from China had tremendous impact. So there are some guys who are big but not that good. They just have to be in a system they can possibly help out at some time. It’s all about the talent” said Bowen.

With the basketball craze in the US matching up with cricket in India, Bowen, 43, might not know much about the bat and ball game but said that athleticism is a common factor in any sport.

“I saw one player catch a ball on the rope, throw it up inside the field of play, get his balance right and catch it again. So that was great and it’s an athletic move. So you have it, if you can have athleticism in cricket then I am sure you can have it in basketball,” he said.

“I was watching India playing Sri Lanka but I don’t understand it. Cricket is not at all popular (in the USA) . These games are eight hours long, it needs serious focus,” he added, smiling.

During his NBA career, Bowen played for Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, and San Antonio Spurs. He went on to win three NBA championships with the Spurs (2003, 2005 and 2007).

Bowen, known for his defense, averaged career high 8.2 ppg for the Spurs in 2004-05, and holds career averages of 6.1 ppg and 2.8 rpg, appearing in 873 NBA games (644 started).


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