The NBA and the entire basketball community has lost a legend following the passing of NBA Hall of Famer Wes Unseld. Wes spent his entire 13-year career playing with the Baltimore, then Capital and later Washington Bullets, in which he helped lead the team to an NBA championship in 1978. He was known for his tremendous physical strength, willpower, guts, quickness and great rebounding but more importantly; Wes was a great human being and was known for being a generous, compassionate and kind soul.
On the court he was a fierce competitor. Wes was a five-time NBA All-Star and averaged 10.8 points, 14.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game during his career. In 1969, he was named Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year to become only the second player in NBA history to win both awards in the same year – the first player being fellow NBA Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain. His No. 41 is one of five currently retired numbers hanging in the rafters at Capital One Arena. On the court, he took no stuff from anyone – ever – thus earning himself the nickname B-A-M-F (a.k.a. Bad A** Mother******). Anyone that knew Wes, knew he had great sense of humor.
Following his retirement in 1981, Wes moved into the Bullets’ front office where he served as vice president for six years before being named head coach in 1988. He later became the team’s general manager in 1996, a role in which he served for seven years. Wes 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.
Wes’ impact on the court is met only by his character. During the offseason, he hosted clinics, rode in Little League parades, attended Blue and Gold Banquets for the Cub Scouts, spoke at high school banquets and generally solidified himself in the community. When he was named an “honorary” commissioner for the Baltimore branch of a Neighborhood Basketball League along the East Coast, Wes was a hands-on, daily participant who made a point to visit each site every week.
Wes was a very socially-aware and intellectual man, as well as an avid reader. He’s mentioned having read nearly 100 of the greatest works of literature of all time, which is quite an impressive feat. In a 2016 article reflecting on Wes’ life and career, he was quoted as saying that he wanted to play one final year in the league and use the money to build a school for his wife. He stated, “she’s had to make a lot of sacrifices for my career, so I’d like next year to be for her.” This statement is evidence of his caring, thoughtful and giving nature.
Wes and his wife, Connie, opened The Unseld School in 1979, a coed pre-K through eighth grade private school located in southwest Baltimore. The school’s curriculum is designed to prevent children from falling into destructive patterns and focuses on critical thinking, character development, self-esteem and work ethic. His legacy on the court will live forever in basketball history but his contributions off the court continue to impact the community of Greater Washington to this day.
His former teammates and executives admire him for his character and how he was the pillar of this franchise for so long. However, it’s what he did with his time off the court that will truly leave an impactful legacy; and Wes’ legacy will continue to live on through the many people he touched and influenced throughout his life of basketball and beyond.
On behalf of myself, the Washington Wizards organization and the entire MSE Family, I would like to extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to the Unseld family, including his wife Connie, daughter Kimberly, son Wes Jr., his two grandchildren, as well as his extended family and friends. Our thoughts and prayers are with you during this extremely difficult time. Wes was a great leader, a dedicated family man and a tremendous human being. He will always be remembered and greatly missed.