Wes Unseld’s most awesome accomplishment: He won MVP in 1969 – as a rookie.
Unseld came ready and remained steady through a 14-year career with the Baltimore/Washington Bullets franchise. He built a legacy of hard work and dependability that will continue, even after his death.
At just 6-foot-7, Unseld battled nightly at center. He was a great rebounder, committed screener and a special passer for his position. Unseld held Washington’s career assist record until point guard John Wall broke it a few years ago. Add steady defensive effort and efficient interior scoring, and Unseld did it all.
He became a Hall of Famer in 1988 and made the NBA’s 50 Greatest list in 1996.
When they drafted Unseld in 1968, the Bullets had never had a winning season. He led them to 57 wins his first season and won MVP. Wilt Chamberlain is the only other player to win MVP as a rookie.
Unseld later teamed with Elvin Hayes (the only player drafted ahead of Unseld in 1968) to lead Washington to the 1978 title. That remains the franchise’s only championship. In fact, the franchise’s only four trips to the NBA Finals (and conference finals*) came with Unseld.
*The Bullets made the 1965 Western Division Finals. But that was back when the NBA has so few teams (nine), Baltimore was in the West.
After retiring in 1981, Unseld had stints as Washington’s general manager and coach. He and his family also ran a school in Baltimore.
Wes Unseld Jr. became a coach, now serving as lead assistant for the Nuggets. Kevin Love, whose middle name is Wesley, was named after Unseld. Kevin’s father, Stan Love, played with Unseld in Baltimore. An obvious inspiration for Love’s outlet passing? Unseld.
Unseld was an NBA legend – a great player in his time with so many traits for future generations to emulate.