NBA Hall of Famer and Washington Wizards legend Wes Unseld dies

Yahoo Sports

The Washington Wizards said former player, coach, and general manager Wes Unseld died Tuesday. He was 74.

Unseld is a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. The five-time All-Star played for Washington from 1968-1981 and started his career with the team when they were known as the Baltimore Bullets.

“It is with profound sadness that we share that our adored husband, father and grandfather Wes Unseld passed away peacefully this morning surrounded by family following lengthy health battles, most recently with pneumonia.” the Unseld family said in a statement through the Wizards.

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“He was the rock of our family — an extremely devoted patriarch who reveled in being with his wife, children, friends and teammates. He was our hero and loved playing and working around the game of basketball for the cities of Baltimore and Washington D.C., Cities he proudly wore on his chest for so many years.”

The Wizards said the Unseld family was requesting donations to the family’s school in Baltimore in his memory.

Unseld had a decorated career

Unseld was a mainstay at center for the Wizards franchise throughout the entirety of his career. He played 73 or more games in all but two of his seasons with the team and averaged over 36 minutes per game in his career. 

He was named the NBA MVP and the Rookie of the Year in 1968-69 when he averaged 13.8 points per game and an astonishing 18.2 rebounds per game. A year later, he upped his scoring average to 16.2 points per game and still averaged 16.7 rebounds per game while increasing his shooting percentage to nearly 52 percent.

Wes Unseld served as a vice president, coach and general manager for Washington after his playing career was over. (AP Photo/Brian K. Diggs)
Wes Unseld served as a vice president, coach and general manager for Washington after his playing career was over. (AP Photo/Brian K. Diggs)

Washington won the 1978 NBA title with Unseld manning the post, and he was named NBA Finals MVP. He averaged nearly 12 rebounds and eight points per game in that championship season and played three more seasons before retiring. 

In addition to being a fantastic rebounder, Unseld was also the catalyst for Washington’s transition offense after grabbing those boards. He was famous for being able to quickly push the pace to the other end of the floor with his passing ability.

Moved to front office after retirement

Unseld became a vice president for the team immediately after he retired and was named the team’s head coach midway through the 1987-88 season. 

He served as Washington’s coach for six-plus years and stepped down after the 1993-94 season. The team never made the playoffs outside of Unseld’s first season and finished seventh in the Atlantic Division in each of his final two seasons.

Unseld then became the team’s general manager in 1996 and left that job after the 2002-03 season ahead of surgery on both of his knees. Unseld was the team’s general manager when Michael Jordan finished his playing career with the Wizards after he joined the team’s front office. Jordan’s final season as a player was Unseld’s final season as a GM and he averaged 20 points per game as Washington finished 37-45 and fifth in the Atlantic.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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