Former Bullets Player/Coach Wes Unseld Passes away at 74
The history books will not be kind to the year 2020 when its story is told in the future. We have had COVID-19, Murder Hornets, 40 million people out of work, and economy in shambles, protests, riots and we have continued to lose some big names from the world of sports. We also note that it all happened in just in the first five months of the year. One has to wonder what will be on the 2020 bingo card next.
On January 1st we lost ex-NBA Commissioner, David Stern and on June 2nd we lost ex-NBA player/ coach, Wes Unseld. In between then two, we have lost the likes of Kobe Bryant (NBA), Tavaris Jackson (NFL), Don Shula (NFL), Tom Dempsey (NFL) Fred “Curly” Neal (Harlem Globetrotters), Don Larsen (MLB), Sam Wyche (NFL), and Pat Dye (College Football) to name a few. As you can see, it has been a rough year so far. Let’s hope that it gets better.
Wes Unseld began his career in the NBA as a center for the Baltimore Bullets. They were then called the Capital Bullets in 1973/74, before moving on to be called the Washington Bullets in 1974/75. Unseld played his entire 13-year career with the franchise. He was not known as a score, putting up just 10.8 ppg in his career but he was known for being a tenacious rebounder, grabbing 14.0 board per game. He also had a knack of setting some bruising picks and he had a great outlet pass. He was Rookie of the Year and League MVP in 1968/69, NBA Finals MVP in 1977/78, a five-time All-Star, and inducted to the NBA Hall Of Fame in 1988.
After his playing career ended in 1981, Wes was away from the game for a few years before returning as an Assistant Coach for the Bullets in 1987/88. He was then the head coach of the team 27 games into that season and remained so until 1993/94. His coaching career was not nearly as successful as his playing career as Wes compiled a 202-345 record as head coach with the team. In his first season at the helm, he was 30-25 and guided the Bullets to the playoffs where they lost in the first round. Washington did not have a record better than 40-42 over his last six years.
He was taken with the 2nd overall pick in the 1968 draft, with Elvin Hayes going off at number one. The two would eventually become teammates and lead the Bullets to their only title which came in the 1977/78 season. Wes won tow state high school titles before moving on to Louisville where he averaged 20.6 ppg and 18.9 rebounds per game with the squad. Wes will be missed.
“Those of us who were fortunate enough to spend time with Wes knew him as a generous and thoughtful man whose strong will was matched only by his passion and drive for uplifting others,” Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard said. “His physical prowess, undeniable talent and on-court demeanor may have struck fear in opponents throughout the NBA, but he will be remembered best as a mentor, leader and friend.”