The basketball community reacts to the passing of Wes Unseld

On Tuesday, the NBA community lost a formative member of its early history, but more importantly, it lost the “gentlest of giants,” a “great friend,” a “legend and a leader,” and a “true champion.” Soon after Wes Unseld’s passing was announced, love, admiration, support and memories began to pour in from around the NBA family – former teammates, current players, friends and family members, media and more all took time to acknowledge the legacy he left behind.

In a statement, the Unseld family said of Wes: “He was the rock of our family – an extremely devoted patriarch who reveled 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.”

As word spread and those that knew him best shared their thoughts and feelings, it was clear that Wes Unseld would be as fondly remembered as a father, husband, friend and a member of the community as he was a player.

Former teammates Elvin Hayes, Phil Chenier and Bob Dandridge remembered Unseld as a “true champion” and a “kind, thoughtful and protective comrade.” Kevin Grevey said of Unseld: “I loved big Wes. We all did. What a teammate.” Gary Witts,

Tim Legler, Gheorghe Muresan and Rex Chapman, each of whom played for the Bullets during Unseld’s time as a coach and executive. Legler called Unseld “a mountain of a man with a huge heart,” while Chapman remembered him as “one of the finest people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.”

Bradley Beal commemorated the legend with a tweet while Cleveland’s Kevin Love, Unseld’s godson, remembered him in an Instagram post. Love’s father, Stan, played alongside Unseld in the early 1970s and gave his son the middle name “Wesley” in honor his friend and teammate.

Ted Leonsis, Chairman and CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, and Irene Pollin, on behalf of the Pollin family, who owned the team during Unseld’s career, each shared their thoughts. Leonsis called Unseld “the pillar of the franchise” while Pollin said “Wes was the broad shoulders upon which our team was built.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement that Unseld was “one of the most consequential players of his era” and “a respected opponent and a cornerstone of Washington Wizards franchise.”

Unseld’s son, Wes Jr., currently works for the Denver Nuggets as an assistant coach. Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly penned a letter in memory of Unseld, saying that “beyond the gruff voice, vice grip hands, and constant smart comments, lied a man who cared so deeply for his family and his community.”

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, into which Unseld was inducted in 1988, said: “He truly loved playing the game and found such joy in passing that love on to the next generation in Baltimore and Washington D.C. Wes will be sincerely missed and we appreciate the impact he had on the game and his community.” The NBA Alumni organization also honored Unseld with a tweet.

Dan Issel, a Hall of Famer in his own right, who played against Unseld at the college and professional level, said: “Wes Unseld was a warrior! He was the shortest starting center in the NBA and was also the toughest. So sound fundamentally – when he blocked you out, he would put you in the third row…Wes will always be the greatest U of L Cardinal.”

Fellow D.C. sports teams chimed in with their support for one of the city’s earliest and most influential sports figures.

Some notable figures around the college basketball world shared their support as well. Chris Mack, head coach of Unseld alma mater Louisville, shared a tribute on Twitter while ESPN’s Dick Vitale and Jay Bilas remembered Unseld and praised him for his legendary outlet pass.

Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post and David Aldridge of The Athletic each wrote articles in Unseld’s memory.

Below are some of the other tributes to the great Wes Unseld from around the NBA media world.


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