As part of CSN’s Summer Series, we ran a bracket to determine the best player in Wizards/Bullets franchise history. We considered all of the greats - Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes, John Wall and more - to come up with the very best of all-time. Come watch the debut of the hour-long special with CSN on Friday night at 7 p.m.!
Before the Wizards were the Wizards, they were the Bullets and went to the NBA Finals four times behind the franchise’s best player Wes Unseld.
There have been players with better statistics and who were more attractive to watch on the offensive end, but the grit and muscle that Unseld brought to the center spot during a time when all-time greats at his position dominated the game was a necessary component to winning.
Unseld never averaged more than 16.2 points per game. He never shot better than 56.1% from the field. But like Bill Russell who had similar numbers in winning 11 NBA championships with the Boston Celtics, he controlled the paint.
To make his task even more difficult, Unseld was just 6-7 as the second overall pick in the 1968 draft. He had to contend with the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and his sky hook. Despite Unseld being seven inches shorter, he defended him better than anyone else in the league.
Realizing he wasn’t able to contest the hook at its apex, Unseld would disrupt Abdul-Jabbar’s rhythm by cutting his steps short to throw off his timing.
In winning the franchise’s only championship, Unseld had to deal with the relatively unsung Marvin Webster who was a force in the 1978 postseason.
Unseld was not only rookie of the year but league MVP for the same season. He was MVP of the ’78 Finals in averaging just 9.4 points and 12.0 rebounds.
Legendary because of his ability to rebound the ball in the air on one end and hit the backboard with an outlet pass at the other end, Unseld is in a category that is all his own.
Today’s game has de-emphasized his position in favor of small ball, finesse bigs who stop their sprint at the three-point arc. The rule changes have taken bigs defensively out of the paint, too, requiring better mobility.
Suffice to say, there will never be another player like Unseld.
For more on our 'Best of the Best' special, check these links: