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Unseld Jr. on first time playing Washington since father's passing originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
When the Nuggets enter Capital One Arena on Wednesday night to play the Wizards, it will be the first time that Denver assistant coach Wes Unseld Jr. sees his father's No. 41 jersey hanging in the rafters since Wes Unseld died at the age of 74 on June 2.
"I'm sure it will be much more emotional, but I will never not take advantage of the opportunity to take a look and enjoy that view because it is special," Unseld Jr. told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller. "Very few people have the opportunity to hoist their name into the rafters and be what he was to a franchise. Obviously, bittersweet to be home under these circumstances, but any opportunity I get to see that banner with that name up there is something special."
Another homecoming tonight in D.C. Wes Unseld Jr. returns to Cap One Arena for the first time since father Wes Sr. passed away. We talked about the emotions walking on the court. pic.twitter.com/esZdltdiEd
— Chris Miller 🎥🎙🏀 (@cmillsnbcs) February 17, 2021
Unseld played his entire 13-year career with the then-Bullets, winning a championship in the 1977-78 season and holding franchise records for rebounds (13,769) games played (984). The Hall-of-Fame, 6-foot-7 center ranks second in franchise history in assists and fifth in points. The Bullets never recorded a winning season before Unseld's arrival, and had 10 winning seasons, four NBA Finals appearances, and one title when he retired.
After retirement, Unseld went on to coach Washington for six seasons and remains the most accomplished player in team history. But his character off the court always trumped his on-court feats, especially when it came to his love for his family.
Unseld often times had his son come join the team after key wins as a player, and the memories Unseld Jr. has of those times are plentiful.
"Yeah I have so many of those. I have flipped through tons of pictures the last six months since he's passed away. I see a reflection of myself and my son," Unseld Jr. said.
Unseld Jr. was a Wizards assistant himself for six years from 2005-2011 after eight seasons in personnel and as a scout. Wanting a larger role on the coaching staff, Unseld Jr. pursued other opportunities and now creates offensive game plans that give Denver's oppositions headaches.
Still, he'll never forget those times with his father that got him entrenched into the sport in the first place.
"Those are touching moments because I can remember after a good win he would motion up and one of the ball boys would come up and grab me," Unseld Jr. said. "I'd come down to the locker room and he'd sit me atop his locker, and I'd get high-fives and fist-bumps from everybody. It was just that environment, which at the time I didn't know was special or unique."