One of the things that earned Bruce Bowen a reputation as one of the NBA's chippiest (and some, even former teammates, might say flat-out dirtiest) defenders over the course of his 13-year NBA career was his penchant for sticking his foot underneath an opposing jump shooter after contesting a shot so that, when the shooter came back down to the floor, he ran a serious risk of stepping awkwardly on Bowen's foot and turning his ankle (or worse). The practice was at the heart of a November 2006 Sports Illustrated feature on Bowen, in which most executives interviewed said they didn't think the eight-time All-Defensive Team selection was intentionally trying to hurt opponents with dirty pool.
No one questioned whether Bowen had done it in the past, but intent — that was the key. If you did it by accident, people could get over it; if you did it on purpose, though ... well, that's the kind of thing that might lead then-New York Knicks coach Isiah Thomas to tell his players, "Next time he does that, break his [EXPLETIVE] foot."
And with that, we come to "The Jalen Rose Show," a podcast on ESPN.com's Grantland Network in which the Fab Five member talks shop and spins yarns from his playing days with producer Dave Jacoby. In a clip from the show released Tuesday through Grantland's new YouTube channel (the same outlet that gave us the stellar documentary on Houston Rockets rookie Royce White's draft-day experience), Rose reiterates that not sticking your foot under a shooter is basketball's "No. 1 unwritten rule" ... and then relates a story of when, as a member of the Indiana Pacers, he himself did it on the sport's biggest stage.
"NBA Finals, 2000," Rose says. "Kobe. Bean. Bryant. Goes up for a jump shot on the right wing, I contest the jump shot, Kobe lands on my foot. He hobbles off, and he actually misses the next game."
Rose is talking about Game 2 of the 2000 Finals. After getting drubbed by the Los Angeles Lakers by 17 points in Game 1 thanks to a monster Shaquille O'Neal performance (43 points on 21-for-31 shooting, 19 rebounds, four assists and three blocks in 44 minutes), the Pacers were hanging with L.A., playing to a 28-all tie after the first quarter. Then, in the second quarter:
"Now, if it was up to me? If it was up to me? He should've just missed the whole series," Rose says. "I would've had a championship ring, and it'd be no harm, no foul."
"Did you purposely put your foot underneath him when he landed?" Jacoby asks. "Don't lie to me. Jalen, don't lie to the people."
"... I think I did it on purpose," Rose says.
"You think you did it on purpose? You won't even cop to it?" Jacoby responds. "You won't even say, 'Yes, I did it.' 'I think?'"
"... I can't say that it was an accident," Rose replies.
Rose goes on to note that he got his karmic desserts in the form of Kobe dropping a pepperoni-fueled 81 on Rose and the Toronto Raptors some 5 1/2 years later. He does not note that Kobe also meted out some justice after coming back for Game 4 of the 2000 Finals, scoring 28 points — including 22 after halftime and an overtime takeover — to push the Lakers to a 3-1 series lead, then came up with 26 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two blocks, one steal and just one turnover in 45 minutes to help close the series out in Game 6, winning his first NBA title at the age of 21.
A dozen years later, Bryant's got four more rings (five total) and is angling for an M.J.-tying sixth with a heavily reloaded Lakers squad, Rose is a successful media personality who's also done good work founding a charter school in his native Detroit, and everyone's moved on. It's all water under the bridge, or over the dam, or wherever it is you prefer to put water, one would would suspect. Still, though, given the nature of the transgression and the high-stakes situation in which it was committed, it struck Jacoby as curious that Rose and Bryant haven't had beef for years.
"How has that not soured your relationship with him now?" Jacoby asks. "Because I know you guys are cool."
Turns out there's a really simple explanation for that.
"He never knew I did it on purpose," Rose answers. "But now he does."
Luckily for Jalen, Kobe Bryant's not the type to hold a grudge.
Um, actually, Jalen, you might want to watch your back, dude. Maybe call up Dale and Antonio Davis and see if they've still got your back. Or at least Rik Smits. If nothing else, he can spirit you away from the Mamba on one of his custom dirt bikes.
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