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Tuesday, June 02, 2020

MVP/Finals MVP/Rookie of the Year Wes Unseld Passed Away at Age 74

Wes Unseld, selected in 1996 as one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players, passed away this morning at the age of 74. Wilt Chamberlain (1960 NBA), Unseld (1969 NBA), and Spencer Haywood (1970 ABA) are the only players in ABA/NBA history who won the regular season MVP and the Rookie of the Year award in the same year. Unseld, who played for the franchise then known as the Bullets (now known as the Wizards) from 1968-81, led his team to the NBA Finals four times (1971, 1975, and 1978-79). He won the 1978 Finals MVP after the Washington Bullets defeated the Seattle SuperSonics in seven games.

He was not a big-time scorer, finishing with a career scoring average of 10.8 ppg while averaging double figures in scoring only six times in 13 seasons, but despite standing just 6-7 he had a huge impact in the paint. Unseld led the NBA in rebounding in 1975 (14.8 rpg) and in field goal percentage in 1976 (.561). Unseld did not post gaudy assist totals, but he was an excellent passer overall, and perhaps the best outlet passer in NBA history, renowned for his ability to snare a defensive rebound and throw a precise full court pass. He set devastating screens to open up the floor for his teammates in the half court set.

Unseld's teammate and fellow All-Star Phil Chenier told me, "Wes was there for my whole career with the Bullets--a very stable player, very team oriented and he set a lot of picks to get me open. He was a player who instilled confidence in his teammates in a very quiet way. You always knew that he supported you. He never fussed at his players. He was always encouraging and that's what I liked most about Wes."

Unseld had nine seasons with at least 1000 rebounds, tied with Bob Pettit for third on the all-time list behind Wilt Chamberlain (13) and Bill Russell (12). Unseld grabbed 1491 rebounds as a rookie, tied with Artis Gilmore for third all-time in ABA/NBA history behind Wilt Chamberlain (1941) and Spencer Haywood (1637). Unseld ranks among the top 15 ABA/NBA career leaders in rpg (14.0, seventh), and rebounds (13,769, 13th).

He was a durable performer who played in all 82 regular season games four times, and who played in at least 73 games in 11 of his 13 seasons. Unseld averaged 36.4 mpg during the regular season, and 41.1 mpg during his playoff career. 

Unseld was a Bullet/Wizard in five different decades including not only his playing career but also his tenure as head coach (1988-94) and as a team executive (1996-2003).

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posted by David Friedman @ 5:32 PM



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