Hall of Famer and 1969 NBA MVP Wes Unseld passes away at age 74

Basketball Hall of Famer Wes Unseld passed away on Tuesday morning at the age of 74.

According to a statement from his family, Basketball Hall of Famer Wes Unseld passed away on Tuesday morning. He was 74 years old.

“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 family’s statement reads, in part.

Unseld was drafted second overall by the Baltimore Bullets in 1968, then followed the franchise to Washington and spent his entire 13-year career in a Bullets’ uniform. He won the NBA regular season MVP in 1969, as he and Wilt Chamberlain are the only two players to take home the honor as a rookie. He won Finals MVP in 1978, as the Bullets beat the Seattle Supersonics to win the first and to this point only title in franchise history.

Unseld was undersized, standing 6-foot-7. But he was a tenacious rebounder, averaging an even 14.0 per game over his 984 career games. His 13,769 career rebounds are the most for a player listed at 6-foot-8 or shorter, according to ESPN Stats and Information. He is still 12th all-time in career rebounds. He was also an underappreciated passer, averaging 3.9 assists per game for his career, with outlet passes to ignite a fast break his forte.

Unseld was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1988, and the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006. His No. 41 was the first number retired in Bullets/Wizards history.

Stan Love was a teammate of Unseld’s with the Baltimore Bullets. He gave his son, current NBA All-Star Kevin, the middle name Wesley and Unseld is Kevin’s godfather.

After retiring as a player in 1981, Unseld kept working in the Washington organization. After working as vice president, he spent nearly seven seasons the Bullets’ head coach (1987-1994) with a 202-345 regular-season record and one playoff appearance. He served as general manager of the renamed Wizards from 1996-2003. Unseld’s son, Wes Unseld Jr., is currently an assistant coach with the Denver Nuggets.

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