LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Wes Unseld, one of the greatest basketball players from Louisville and the second player named NBA rookie of the year and MVP the same season, died this morning in Maryland.
The Washington Wizards, the franchise that Unseld joined 52 years ago, made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday morning. Unseld was 74.
Statement from the family of Wes Unseld.Rest easy, Wes ♥️ pic.twitter.com/NwEtuofgG9— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) June 2, 2020
Unseld started carving his Hall of Fame career at Seneca High School in Louisville, by teamming with Mike Redd to lead Seneca to back-to-back state titles in 1963 and 1964.
Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp tried to recruit Unseld to break the color line in the Southeastern Conference and play for the Wildcats, but Unseld stayed home to play for Peck Hickman and the Cardinals.
Unseld delivered a remarkable career in Freedom Hall, setting the school scoring mark with 1,685 points and 1,581 rebounds. His 45-point game against Georgetown remains the U of L single-game scoring record and his point total, earned in only three seasons, ranks 11th.
Teaming with his close friend Butch Beard of Breckinridge County, Unseld led Louisville to as high as No. 2 in the national rankings.
Unseld was named a consensus all-American in 1967 and 1968. U of L retired his trademark No. 31 jersey.
Although only 6 feet 7 and 245 pounds, Unseld played center and was taken second in the 1968 NBA Draft by the Baltimore Bullets.
As a rookie, Unseld averaged 13.8 points and 18.2 rebounds, earning the rookie and MVP awards. Wilt Chamberlain was the only other player to earn both honors the same year.
Unseld developed a close relationship with Bullets’ owner Abe Pollin and remained with the franchise for 13 seasons. The Bullets appeared in back-to-back NBA Finals against Seattle, winning the world title in 1978 and losing in 1979.
Unseld later served the team as a coach (six seasons), general manager and vice president. In retirement, Unseld lived in Baltimore where his wife, Connie, and daughter, Kimberley, run the Unselds School, a co-educational school and day care center.
Unseld is also survived by his son Wes Jr. and he is the godfather of Cleveland Cavaliers’ all-star Kevin Love, whose father, Stan, played with him in Washington.
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