Wes Unseld, the former Washington Bullets (now Washington Wizards) star and member of the Basketball Hall Fame, died on Tuesday morning, his family announced. He was 74 years old. Unseld was dealing with multiple health issues, with pneumonia being the most recent.
"He was the rock of our family – an extremely devoted patriarch who reveled in being with his wife, children, friends and teammates," the Unseld family said in a statement. "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." Unseld was the face of the Bullets during the 1970s. He was drafted by the team in 1968 when the team was in Baltimore. As the team moved a couple of times, Unseld became the anchor of the franchise, which ultimately led to him being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1988.
Unseld became one of the top players in the NBA in his rookie season, winning his first and only MVP award. He became the first player since Wilt Chamberlain to win the MVP award during his rookie year. He was also named to his first All-Star game that year and ended up being an All-Star five times. The hard work Unseld and his teammates put in over the years paid off when they won the NBA Championship in 1978. Unseld was named NBA Finals MVP after averaging 9.2 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. He is considered one of the best big men to ever play in the league. "Wes was the rock of the team," The Athletic’s David Aldridge said per the team's official website. "He was a guy that did all the dirty work and allowed the other players to shine. People respected that. People understood what Wes was doing to help the team win."
When his career was all said and done, Unseld averaged 10.8 points and 14 rebounds per game in his career. He then moved on to coaching, being named the head coach of the Bullets in 1987. The team reached the playoffs in his first year but missed postseason action the next five seasons. He resigned from the position in 1994 and he then went on to become the team's general manager.