NEW YORK — Bruce Bowen retired from the NBA in 2009, Horace Grant in 2004 and Detlef Schrempf in 2001. And while Father Time eventually removes all players from the game of basketball, nothing can take the game out of its players.
Long after playing their last NBA games, Bowen (now 43 years old), Grant (54) and Schrempf (52) were all still as competitive as ever while taking part in some contests with hoops fans on Saturday at NBA House, across the street from the site of Sunday’s NBA All-Star game at Madison Square Garden.
Although Bowen, a three-time NBA champion and five-time All-Defensive First Team selection with the San Antonio Spurs, and Grant, a four-time NBA champion as a key member of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, and one-time All-Star, didn’t have anything like an NBA title on the line, they couldn’t help but playfully talk smack while trying to help their respective teams win a 3-point shooting contest in which Bowen’s squad came out on top.
Earning his reputation as a lockdown defender over his professional career, Bowen joked that he was trying to play defense with his mind as he stared at the fan who was Grant’s teammate in the 3-point shootout.
Trying to distract Grant, Bowen also jested to the crowd, “The only reason Horace got where he did was because of his brother Harvey (who played sparingly with his brother Horace at Clemson for two years before transferring to Oklahoma and embarking on an 11-year NBA career).”
Grant, who struggled during the 3-point contest, kidded that the reason he wasn’t a better 3-point shooter was that, “Michael (Jordan), Scottie (Pippen) and Kobe (Bryant) wouldn’t pass me the ball.”
Later, Bowen’s team won a free throw competition after Bowen knocked down a few foul shots to secure another win for his team. But before he did, Grant, after making key free throws during his team’s round, intentionally bounced the ball well out of Bowen’s reach so he’d have to chase it down. Hoping that tactic would throw Bowen’s rhythm off before his turn to shoot, Grant quipped, “Oh, I’m sorry Bruce. I was a little off on that pass.”
Bowen responded sarcastically, “That’s my bad, Horace. I should have had that pass. I let that one get away.”
In the end, Bowen and Grant posed for pictures with the fans who participated with them, but Bowen was more than happy to walk away with bragging rights, even if the reward was simply having the satisfaction of winning some simple contests instead of more NBA rings.
After Bowen and Grant entertained the crowd, Detlef Scrempf — who despite last playing in the NBA in 2001, appeared to be in good enough shape to help the talent-depleted, hometown New York Knicks at the center position — was eager to help selected fans compete in another free throw shooting contest.
Schrempf was having fun interacting with the crowd, but the former three-time NBA All-Star and two-time NBA Sixth Man of the Year still showed good form and took his free throw shooting seriously.
And when the contest (which combined Schrempf’s free throw totals with that of the fans’ during each round) came down to a young, sharpshooting boy and against a woman who used to play college ball for LaSalle, Schrempf coolly sank his last four free throws with the clock running down, including one last foul shot just before the final buzzer, to give the boy a last-second, comeback one-point victory.
It was all for fun, and a nice way for fans to get involved with All-Star weekend in New York City. But it was also clear that even in those types of competitions, the game will always be a part of those who played it at the highest level, long after they’ve retired.