The mean scowl, the solid frame, the bone crushing picks that you couldn’t and wouldn’t get around, the rebounds you weren’t going to get out of his hands, and those outlets passes were a thing of beauty, these were the words to the describe Wes Unseld.
Unseld was drafted by the Kentucky Colonels in the 1968 American Basketball Association draft and was drafted second overall in the first round by the Baltimore Bullets in 1968, and helped lead the Bullets (who had finished in last place in the Eastern division the previous year) to a 57–25 record and a division title. Unseld averaged 18.2 rebounds per game that year, and became only the second player ever to win both Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the same season (Wilt Chamberlain being the first). Unseld was also named the Sporting News MVP that year. He was one of the best defensive players of his era, and in 1975, he led the NBA in rebounding. The following season, he led the NBA in field goal percentage with a .561 percentage.
Famed for his rebounding, bone-jarring picks and ability to ignite a fast break with his crisp, accurate outlet passes, Unseld made up for his lack of size (6’7”) with brute strength and sheer determination. Unseld took the Bullets franchise to four NBA Finals, and won the championship in 1978 over the Seattle SuperSonics, in which he was named the Finals MVP. He ended his playing career following the 1980–1981 season, and his #41 jersey was retired by the Bullets shortly thereafter.
In 984 NBA games – all with the Bullets – Unseld averaged a double-double, with averages of 10.8 points and 14.0 rebounds per game, as well as 3.9 assists per game, averaging over 36 minutes played per game. Unseld was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1988, and in 1996, he was named as one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players of all time.
Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday salutes …Wes Unseld.
Selected by the Baltimore Bullets
Pro playing career
Career highlights and awards
NBA champion (1978)
NBA Finals MVP (1978)
NBA Most Valuable Player (1969)
5× NBA All-Star (1969, 1971–1973, 1975)
All-NBA First Team (1969)
NBA Rookie of the Year (1969)
NBA All-Rookie First Team (1969)
J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award (1975)
NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team
No. 41 retired by Washington Wizards
2× Consensus first team All-American (1967–1968)
3× first team All-MVC (1966–1968)
10,624 (10.8 ppg)
13,769 (14.0 rpg)
3,822 (3.9 apg)
Stats at Basketball-Reference.com
Basketball Hall of Fame as player
Competitor for United States
Pan American Games