Wes Unseld was drafted by the Baltimore Bullets with the second overall pick in 1968 out of Louisville, where he finished his senior season as a consensus All-American selection. In his first season in Baltimore in 1968-69, Unseld turned the Bullets around by leading them to 21 more victories than the year prior and the team’s first ever playoff appearance. His 13.8 point, 18.2 rebound per game averages in his first season earned him Rookie of the Year and MVP Honors, making him just one of two players in league history (along with Wilt Chamberlain) to win both awards in the same season.
The 6-7 center was the rock of the Bullets’ success in the 70’s, spending his entire 13-year career with the team. Unseld helped lead Baltimore to five consecutive playoff appearances and continued the streak when the team moved to Washington in 1973. In all, the Bullets would make 12 straight playoff appearances during his career, including four Finals trips and the franchise’s championship run in 1978, when they defeated the Seattle Supersonics in seven games to take the ring. Unseld was voted Finals MVP, averaging 9.0 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists during the championship series.
A five-time All-Star selection, Unseld appeared in a franchise-record 984 games, averaging 10.8 points, 14.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists over his career. Despite being undersized at the center position, Unseld was known for his relentlessness in the paint and bruising nature, as well as his outlet passing and screening ability. He was inducted into The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a player in 1988 and was voted as a top 50 player in league history in 1996. Unseld’s number 41 jersey was retired in 1981 and is currently one of five jerseys hanging in the rafters at Capital One Arena.
Following his retirement in 1981, Unseld immediately moved into a front office role with the Bullets, first serving as vice president of the team from 1981-87. In 1988, Unseld took over as head coach, leading an 8-19 team to a 30-25 finish and trip to the playoffs. Unseld coached until 1994, winning 202 games – the second-most by a coach in franchise history. Unseld returned to a front office position in 1996, serving as General Manager until 2003 (excluding a brief one-year stint as Michael Jordan took over the duties).
Unseld’s career and accomplishments span off the court as well, as he and his wife, Connie, opened the Unselds’ School in Baltimore in 1978. The school is one of the few fully-accredited, black-owned, non-church-affiliated elementary schools in Maryland, with Connie serving as the principal, his daughter, Kim, serving as one of the primary teachers at the school, and Wes occasionally serving as the bus driver. Unseld’s son, Wes Unseld Jr., currently serves as the lead assistant coach with the Denver Nuggets.