By Sean Yoes
AFRO Baltimore Editor
[email protected]

Wes Unseld was one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history and a world champion with the Washington Bullets. But, he was also known as a man of great integrity, who became a vital community leader in his adopted hometown of Baltimore. Unseld died today from pneumonia according to his family. He was 74.

“It is with profound sadness that we share that our adored husband, father and grandfather Wes Unseld passed away peacefully this morning surrounded by family following lengthy health battles, most recently with pneumonia,” read a statement from the Unseld family.

In this June 12, 1978, file photo, Wes Unseld and his wife Connie hold the keys to their new Thunderbird, presented to him by Sport magazine in New York. Unseld, the workmanlike Hall of Fame center who led Washington to its only NBA championship and was chosen one of the 50 greatest players in league history, died Tuesday, June 2, 2020, after a series of health issues, most recently pneumonia. He was 74. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler, File)

“He was the rock of our family– an extremely devoted patriarch who revelled in  being with his wife, children, friends and teammates. He was our hero and loved playing and working around the game of basketball for the cities of Baltimore and Washington, D.C., cities he proudly wore on his chest for so many years.”

Known as “The Baby Bull,” Unseld forged a Hall of Fame NBA career with the Baltimore Bullets and then when the franchise moved to Washington, D.C., with a bruising style of play as one of the shortest (at 6’6”) centers in the league.

In this May 25, 1979, file photo, Washington Bullets’ Wes Unseld (41) reaches to block a shot by Seattle Supersonics’ Paul Silas ()35) during an NBA basketball game in Landover, Md. Unseld, the Hall of Fame center who led Washington to its only NBA championship and was chosen one of the 50 greatest players in league history, died Tuesday, June 2, 2020, after a series of health issues, most recently pneumonia. He was 74. (AP Photo/Smith, File)

After his college career ended as a two-time All-American at the University of Louisville, in his hometown, Unseld was drafted by the Baltimore Bullets in 1968. That year he averaged 13.8 points and 18.2 rebounds per game and won both Rookie of the Year and league Most Valuable Player honors. He was only the second player in league history (after Wilt Chamberlain) to garner both distinctions.

Unseld played his entire career with the Bullets, was an NBA All-Star five times, four of those times with the Baltimore Bullets and once after the team moved to D.C. in 1973. He led the Bullets to the playoffs 12 of his 13 years and the team finally captured the NBA championship in 1978, when the team defeated the Seattle Supersonics. Unseld was named the championship  series MVP.

In this March 18, 1981, file photo, Washington Bullets’ Wes Unseld, left, and team owner Abe Polling get together prior to a press conference in Landover, Md., where they announced that Unseld would retire as a player at the end of the 1980-81 season. Unseld, the Hall of Fame center who led Washington to its only NBA championship and was chosen one of the 50 greatest players in league history, died Tuesday, June 2, 2020, after a series of health issues, most recently pneumonia. He was 74. (AP Photo/Smith, File)

Although his opponents at the center position typically towered over him, Unseld often dominated them with his intelligence and extraordinary physical strength. “Sure, I gave away inches [to opponents]. But a bigger factor was determination,” he once told the Baltimore Sun. “If they were more determined, they’d win. But if I were more determined,they’d be  hurting.”

After his playing days were over, Unseld went on to become a vice-president, then a coach and later a general manager of the Bullets.

In this May 14, 1998, file photo, Washington Wizards general manager Wes Unseld announces the trade of Chris Webber to the Sacramento Kings for Mitch Richmond and Otis Thorpe at the MCI Center in Washington. Unseld, the workmanlike Hall of Fame center who led Washington to its only NBA championship and was chosen one of the 50 greatest players in league history, died Tuesday, June 2, 2020, after a series of health issues, most recently pneumonia. He was 74. (AP Photo/Brian K. Diggs, FIle)

Later, Unseld solidified his role as a community leader in Baltimore, the city he fell in love with. He and his beloved wife Connie opened the Unselds’ School in Southwest Baltimore, on South Hilton Street. The co educational private school has been in operation for more than three decades, nurturing children from nursery school to middle school. The school has been an institutional anchor in that Southwest Baltimore community for decades.

In addition to his wife Connie, Unseld is survived by his daughter Kim, his son Wes Jr., who is an assistant coach with the Denver Nuggets, a daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.

In this April 6, 2013, file photo, former Washington Bullets basketball player and Hall of Famer Wes Unseld, right, is greeted by Irene Pollin, left, wife of the late Bullets’ owner Abe Pollin, during a ceremony to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Bullets only NBA championship, during halftime of an NBA basketball game between the Washington Wizards and the Indiana Pacers, in Washington. Unseld, the workmanlike Hall of Fame center who led Washington to its only NBA championship and was chosen one of the 50 greatest players in league history, died Tuesday, June 2, 2020, after a series of health issues, most recently pneumonia. He was 74. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)



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