Do you remember Cal Bowdler from his from his days in the NBA? The Atlanta Hawks selected him in the 1999 NBA Draft as the 17th pick overall. Unfortunately, Cal had a less than stellar pro career, and many are quick to sweep the memory of players like him under the rug when their name is no longer in lights.
But there’s more to Cal Bowdler than historical stats that supposedly dictate his worth and what we should think of him. Every player has a story, and Cal’s happens to be one we can learn from.
Bowdler was your average kid. He played little league baseball, football, and soccer as a young boy, and enjoyed waterskiing, wakeboarding and basketball in his early teens. After he grew 10 inches at Rappahannock High School in Virginia, it was clear basketball wasn’t just another leisurely pastime.
In 1995, Bowdler entered Old Dominion University on scholarship. He was off to a slow start, only averaging 2.1 points and 1.7 rebounds his freshman season, but steadily improved to average 14.7 points and 10 rebounds by his senior year. Over the course of four years at ODU, Bowdler also added a powerful 60 pounds to his frame and solidified himself as an inside player.
“I realized I might be good enough to play in the NBA then I never looked back,” he told The Draft Review. “I put in double time in the weight room and gym, improving my strength, conditioning, agility, and skill set.”
Bowdler’s draft stock skyrocketed in the pre-draft camps, but he was still uncertain of how draft day would pan out. “I did play very well in the pre-draft camps as well as in team workouts. I actually turned down an invite to the green room. I watched from home.”
Bowdler had no prior knowledge that he’d be selected by the Atlanta Hawks and was left with little reaction. “If I was going to go in the 1st round at all, I thought it would be Indiana or Utah. Both of these teams had multiple picks in the mid to late 1st round that year.”
In the NBA, Bowdler was amazed with the natural talent and athletic ability of his peers and also intended to take his own game to the highest level possible. Off the court, he described himself as “very rich, very young - a bad combination”.
Unfortunately, Bowdler and the Atlanta Hawks was another bad combination. The team was on a downturn after 7 consecutive post-season runs, and Bowdler wasn’t getting much of playing time. He also faced injuries. With no further guarantees, Bowdler signed with an Italian team in 2002 and moved his fiancée, Brooke, and their baby daughter to Europe.
Choosing Family Over Basketball
Bowdler played his final game of organized basketball in Italy in 2005, and along the way faced challenges that transformed him from a naive young man and ushered him into manhood. “Little did I know that basketball was the easy part,” said Bowdler.
While in Italy, Brooke became frustrated and torn between family and pursuing her own career goals, and made the decision to break her engagement with Bowdler. Brooke took their young daughter back to the east coast then moved on to Hollywood. She enjoyed the all the perks that came with a lifestyle of modeling and spots in music videos on the Hollywood scene, but the easy availability of drugs also left Brooke with an addiction.
Bowdler now faced tough decisions that would shape his future. Would he move on, accept the fate of a broken engagement and continue to pursue basketball in Europe, or take back his family an ocean apart? During this time, Bowdler also struggled with emptiness and discontent from a life of basketball.
Bowder’s faith was tested and the choices were hard, but he ultimately chose to give up the game and remain committed to Brooke in her darkest moments. He married her in 2004 and continued at his wife’s side through ups and downs as she slowly healed and regained solid footing.
Bowdler endured disappointment, uncertainty and fear, but today, the Bowdlers are a happy family residing in Virginia. They celebrated the birth of their 2nd daughter in early 2007.
What Can We Learn from Cal?
Cal Bowdler's legacy isn't about old statistics or a faded NBA memory. The decisions and attitude he maintained during and after his career is a shining example, right now, of how to live life - have faith, stay strong, be smart, remain positive and roll with the punches.
The Draft Review applauds Cal Bowdler for his achievement as an NBA draftee, but more importantly, we thank him for his honesty in sharing the struggles and triumphs that we can all learn from.
More Insights From Cal
“Being part of the NBA is family forever…I can’t think of anything negative about playing a game for a career. It’s pretty incredible…and I’m very blessed to have been able to take part in it.”
“Don’t let people take advantage of you. Live modestly. There’s no need for excess.”
“There’s no bad players in the NBA. If you are lucky enough to play in the NBA then that means you are one of the best basketball players in the world. That in and of itself is a great achievement. I think The Draft Review is doing a great thing by presenting that idea to the general public. Keep up the good work.”