Former Bullets player Tim Legler has felt the impact Wes Unseld made on basketball and this world in a variety of ways.
He grew up a Bullets fan, spending his early years split between Richmond, VA and Baltimore, MD. He later became an NBA player and spent four seasons in Washington where Unseld ran the front office. And through their working relationship, they became long-time friends, staying in touch over the years.
Legler joined the 'Wizards Talk' podcast for an upcoming episode to share memories of Unseld, who passed away this week at the age of 74.
"I remember going to my very first basketball camp when I was 12 years old. I had a t-shirt that I got and I dyed it Bullets colors and I put Unseld on the back of it," he said.
"One of the very first times I remember crying over a sporting event was when the Bullets lost to the Supersonices in the [NBA Finals]. It broke my heart. Now, here you are on charted flights with this guy, you're on buses with him, you're at practice with him, you're getting a chance to know him on a human level. Honestly man, I was pinching myself."
Legler knew Unseld the player as an enforcer who was as feared as anyone who played during his era of the 1970s. But as Legler got to know the Hall of Famer personally, he realized there was much more to him than the tough exterior.
"The thing I will always remember about Wes Unseld is that to me he is epitome of what you would label a gentle giant because he was a mountain of a man. He's one of the strongest physical specimens that has ever stepped on the floor and an NBA court," Legler said.
"But he had the biggest heart. He was a kind man, he was a respectful person. He always treated me and my family great, and every other person I saw Wes Unseld come in contact with. So he went beyond whether you regarded him as a basketball player or basketball executive."
Legler added he was deeply affected by Unseld's passing. Though Unseld's health had declined in recent years, it took him by surprise when he saw the news.
"It was a gut-punch, no doubt," he said. "It takes your breath away for a second because immediately you are transported back to that time."
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