Projected as a solid first rounder in the 1984 NBA draft, Bowie was chosen by the Portland Trail Blazers as the second selection, ahead of future Hall of Famer Michael Jordan, due to Portland already having drafted Clyde Drexler just a year before.
The Houston Rockets selected Houston center Hakeem Olajuwon with the first pick in the 1984 NBA draft, having won a coin toss with the Portland Trail Blazers for the pick. The Indiana Pacers actually finished with one of the two worst records in the league that year along with the Rockets, but had traded the pick in 1981 to the Blazers for center Tom Owens. Olajuwon had been the Blazers’ first choice, but with him now off the board and the team still desiring a center, Portland made Bowie the second choice in the draft. Drafting third, the Chicago Bulls chose North Carolina shooting guard Michael Jordan.
During his rookie season, Bowie played in 76 games and averaged 10 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, earning a spot on the NBA All-Rookie Team. However, things started to go south as Bowie’s injuries began catching up with him again.
During a game against the Milwaukee Bucks at The MECCA, Bowie and teammate Jerome Kersey got tangled up going for a rebound and as they landed, Bowie’s injury-prone left tibia broke again and he was carried off the floor on a stretcher. The next season, Bowie returned after having rehabilitated his injury and believed he was stronger than he had been. Five games into the season, the Trail Blazers played host to the Dallas Mavericks and Bowie went up for what he intended to be a jump hook shot. As he went up, his legs buckled underneath him and Bowie fell to the floor of the arena, pounding the hardwood out of frustration. This time, it was his other leg causing the issue as the right tibia suffered a stress fracture that cost him the rest of that season as well. Once again, Bowie tried to come back and entered the 1987-88 season hoping to stay healthy. On October 17, during pregame warmups for a preseason matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Bowie began feeling intense pain in his right leg again and told Clyde Drexler that he thought he’d broken his leg yet again. Determined not to be seen on a stretcher again, Bowie was carried off by his teammates and was diagnosed with a very rare type of stress fracture primarily seen in ballet dancers. All told, due to his leg troubles he only played 63 games (out of a possible 328) during his last four seasons in Portland.
On June 24, 1989, Bowie, who had averaged 10.5 points per game with the Trail Blazers, was traded, along with a draft pick, to the New Jersey Nets in exchange for Buck Williams. Bowie’s four seasons in New Jersey were his healthiest and most successful; he averaged 12.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game and never missed more than 20 games in a season. His best season was his first with the Nets where he averaged a double-double with 14.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. Bowie also hit a career high in points per game in 1991–92 with 15.0, and played a career high 79 games in 1992-93 averaging 9.1 points per game and seven rebounds. After the 1992–93 season, Bowie was involved in a trade that resulted in Benoit Benjamin being sent to New Jersey in exchange for Bowie, who joined the Los Angeles Lakers. However, Bowie’s injury problems resurfaced and his action in two seasons with Los Angeles was limited; he only played in 92 games and started 17. Bowie retired from professional basketball in 1995 to become involved in harness racing, although Jerry West, the team’s general manager, wanted him to stick around for a few years after that.
Over his career, Bowie averaged 10.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.78 blocks per game. He hit 45.2% of his attempted field goals (2,127 made of 4,702 attempted), and 30.2% of his three-point shots (32 made of 106 attempted