As you may have noticed earlier this month, former NBA center Sam Bowie made the media rounds to promote his new ESPNU documentary, “Going Big.”
Bowie, famously picked ahead of Michael Jordan in the 1984 NBA draft, has not only been a frequent target of sports fans following his underwhelming 10-year career, but he's also a punch line for rappers.
Multiple leg injuries limited the 7-footer to just 511 games in the league and prevented him from living up to immense pre-draft hype. He stopped by ESPN Playbook to talk about his reputation and its place in hip-hop lore.
In the rap world, the name “Sam Bowie” has become synonymous with failure. Jadakiss, Joe Budden and, most notably, Jay-Z have all referred to the Kentucky alum in disparaging ways over the years.
Having grown used to the criticism, Bowie has learned to tune out most of the naysayers. However, it is difficult to ignore when rap’s biggest stars are calling you out.
“My children actually introduced me to a few rappers that used my name, so it’s kind of comical,” said the 51-year-old father of three. “I probably get more jokes from my kids than from the outside. I’ve become accustomed to it, though.
“The one thing I’ve become very comfortable with is that, it is what it is. There’s no defense for it. It occurred, it happened. For me to try and stand up and represent myself would be a waste.”
Bowie recognizes that situations out of his control prevented him for living up to his potential. So he doesn’t take the name-dropping personally, instead calling the verses “true to form.” In fact, Bowie actually seems to find happiness in the fact that his kids get to tell their friends their dad was mentioned in a Jay-Z song.
Upon closer examination of his career, Bowie still managed to put up serviceable NBA numbers: 10.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game over 10 seasons.
“When you’re drafted ahead of Michael Jordan, everything else is going to be secondary,” he explained. “So I don’t blame the public, by any means, for looking at my career as a failure. But this documentary gives them a different perspective of knowing that I did play 10 years in the NBA.”
Count one of his lyrical detractors as a possible convert. When Jadakiss was interviewed by the “Going Big” producers, they informed the rapper of Bowie’s final career numbers.
“A lot of people never average double figures for 10 years,” Jadakiss said. “A lot of people would never even last 10 years in the NBA.”
The scene didn’t make the final cut, but it does prove that Bowie might not deserve such a bad rap after all.