SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Bruce Bowen won't be pestering the NBA's best anymore.
The 38-year-old former San Antonio Spurs forward retired Thursday after 12 seasons and a reputation as one of the league's most menacing defenders, hounding opponents with a tenacity that some players groused was more dirty than dogged.
He called it quits after being waived this summer by Milwaukee, where the Spurs dealt him in a veteran dump-off for swingman Richard Jefferson -- a decision Bowen said he understood.
"You need to do things to better the business, and the Spurs definitely got better in the players they received, so I'm looking forward to continuously supporting the Spurs, but from more of a distance now," he said in a news conference at his wife's San Antonio salon.
Bowen said he had been weighing retirement for the last five years.
Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili get most of the glory for bringing three NBA championships to San Antonio this decade. But Bowen gladly did the dirty work, relishing his role as the pesky, lockdown defender who covered the other team's best player.
Asked about the likely reaction to his retirement from stars like the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant and the Phoenix Suns' Steve Nash, Bowen chuckled, "I'm sure a lot of people are happy."
Bowen was named eight times to the NBA's all-defensive team. He finished runner-up three times in defensive player of the year voting. And though he never averaged more than 8.2 points a season, Bowen didn't shy from taking a clutch 3-pointer.
He started alongside the Big Three during the championship runs in 2003, 2005 and 2007. Bowen went on to start 500 straight games before kicking New Orleans' Chris Paul in March 2008 and drawing a one-game suspension -- justice in the eyes of Bowen's critics.
Opposing fans vilified Bowen as a master of cheap shots and sneaky shoves. Amare Stoudemire once insisted Bowen purposely kicked him in the playoffs. Dirk Nowitzki said after a physical April playoff game that it was the Spurs who had a dirty player, not Dallas.
Nowitzki didn't mention Bowen by name. He didn't have to.
Bowen acknowledged Thursday only one play in which he purposely kicked another player: Ray Allen in a March 2006 game against the Seattle SuperSonics, a scuffle that earned him a $10,000 fine.
"That play, I remember and I regret because of me intentionally doing that," Bowen said.
But he said that his reputation as a sometimes dirty player is unfair.
"People are entitled to their own opinions. I've been fighting that for quite some time," said Bowen, who added he drew a lot of calls because of bad timing. "It just so happened that I was there after everyone stuck their hands in the cookie jar and then the lights came on and I had a cookie."
Bowen was not the most obvious starter for a championship team early in his career. Drafted by Miami from Cal State Fullerton, he spent several seasons bouncing between clubs and earning little playing time.
But after his 2001 arrival in San Antonio, he found his place, eventually earning defensive player accolades and a regular starting job.
He said he hopes that will be his legacy.
"It's not how you start but how you finish," Bowen said. "I hope my legacy would be as someone that never was satisfied with just being where they were."