Washington D.C. and the basketball community as a whole lost a legend Tuesday with the passing of Wes Unseld. Unseld died peacefully around family members after ongoing battles with his health. He was 74 years old.
Unseld truly left his mark on the Bullets/Wizards franchise, contributing as a player, coach, and executive for over 25 years collectively. So as we celebrate the life of a basketball icon, let's take a look back at the best moments of his Hall of Fame career.
Winning Rookie of the Year and MVP
It's safe to say Unseld exploded onto the scene as a rookie in the 1968-69 season. After he was selected by the Baltimore Bullets with the second overall pick in the 1968 NBA Draft, Unseld averaged 13.8 points and 18.2 rebounds in his first professional campaign.
He turned the Bullets from a 36-win team into a 57-win team, earning him Rookie of the Year honors AND the MVP award. The only other player to win both awards in the same season is Wilt Chamberlain.
The 1968-69 season didn't end how Unseld would've wanted, in a first-round sweep to the Knicks, but it's hard to look negatively on one of the best rookie years in NBA history.
Game 3 vs. Knicks in 1970 playoffs
Down 2-0 to the Knicks for the second straight year in the playoffs, Unseld responded in Game 3 with one of the best games of his career.
Over 41 minutes of playing time, Unseld scored 23 points, dished out four assists and grabbed an astounding 34 rebounds. I repeat, 34 rebounds! Let's also not forget Unseld played center at 6'7", which was way less common back then than it is today.
The Bullets won Game 3 127-113 and ended up tying the series with a win in Game 4. However, the Knicks edged out Baltimore yet again, winning the series in seven games.
1978 NBA championship
After coming up just short in the Finals in 1971 and 1975, Unseld finally got Washington over the hump by defeating the Sonics in Game 7 of the 1978 Finals, delivering the franchise its first and only championship to date.
Unseld played 45 minutes and turned in 15 points, nine rebounds and six assists to lead Washington to a 105-99 win. Unseld was known for his rebounding, but his passing skills are consistently underrated. Before John Wall came to town, Unseld was the franchise's all-time leader in assists.
After Game 7, Unseld was named Finals MVP and joined a select group to have won Rookie of the Year, MVP and Finals MVP, one that includes Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Kevin Durant.
Hall of Fame induction
In 1988, Unseld was rightfully enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He retired with five All-Star selections, a Rookie of the Year award, one MVP, an NBA championship and Finals MVP award.
Unseld entered the Hall of Fame headlining a class including Ralph Miller, Bob McDermott and Clyde Lovellette.
50 Greatest Players
Ahead of the NBA's 50th anniversary in 1996, the league decided to name an all-time team consisting of the game's 50 greatest players. The players were selected through a vote by a panel of media members, former players and coaches, and current and former general managers.
Unseld was named to the team as one of 15 centers who made the cut. Elvin Hayes and Dave Bing were among former Bullets players to also be named to the distinguished group of basketball legends.
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