Basketball community grieves the loss of legend Wes Unseld


Louisville basketball great and NBA legend Wes Unseld has died.

The basketball community is grieving after a statement released by the Washington Wizards Twitter account announced the passing of Wes Unseld former Louisville basketball legend at the age of 74 following “lengthy battles, most recently with pneumonia.”

Unseld was a star player for Seneca High School in Louisville, winning back-to-back state championships in 1963 and 1964. Gene Allsmiller, former Durrett High School big man and grandfather of BRL’s own Alan Thomas, recalls guarding Unseld in a game against Seneca, “I was one of the biggest guys in the district..then I faced Wes. [The] first possession I posted up on him, he flicked me away like a fruit gnat.” For what Unseld lacked in height at his position, he made up for with his incredible strength and elite rebounding skills.

Unseld’s talent garnered interest from over 100 colleges including the University of Kentucky making him the first African-American to be offered a basketball scholarship to the program under Adolph Rupp. Ultimately, Unseld ended up signing with the University of Louisville in 1965 and would carry on his dominance into the college ranks.

It didn’t take long for him to find his way as he started on Louisville’s all-freshman team his first year at the school, averaged averaging 35.8 points and 23.6 rebounds over 14 games. By his sophomore season, Unseld would join the varsity squad all three years and end his career at UofL tallying 1,686 points, and 1,551 rebounds in 82 games.

Unseld was selected as the second overall pick by the Baltimore Bullets (now Washington Wizards) in the 1968 NBA Draft. As a rookie, he led the team to a 52-25 record despite the team finishing in last place in the Eastern Conference the year prior. Unseld’s achievement led him to become the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player of the league in the same year, a feat only one other player has accomplished in NBA history, Wilt Chamberlain. In addition, Unseld was an NBA Champion and Finals MVP for the 1978 NBA Playoffs.

Unseld’s impact reached far beyond the lines of the basketball court. He made it his mission to impact the lives of children in a positive way by establishing The Unseld School for the city of Baltimore, providing its students with the resources needed to achieve their dreams.

Following incredible collegiate and professional careers, Unseld’s jerseys were retired by U of L (No. 31) and the Washington Wizards (No. 41) and was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 1988.

Current players and coaches have all weighed in on the passing of Unseld since the news broke this morning. Jay Bilas to Rex Chapman to Bradley Beal to Louisville basketball head coach Chris Mack took to Twitter to express their condolences. He tweeted:

"I’ve heard many stories about the great Wes Unseld, Louisville’s own. Please pray for his family during their time of loss. #RIPWesUnseld"

Unseld not only spent his entire playing career with the Washington Bullets but following his retirement from basketball in 1981, he joined the team in a front-office role where he served for quite some time before moving to the bench as the team’s head coach. After six years as a coach where he went 202-345, Unseld moved back into the team’s front office completing a trifecta of sorts, working as the team’s General Manager for six seasons.

Ranking the top 100 players in Louisville basketball history, Alan Thomas wrote about Unseld and just how important he was to the program.

"Unseld was perhaps the most intimidating player in Louisville basketball folklore. The stout, 6’7″ beast was a prolific scorer, relentless glass-eater, and the greatest outlet passer in the sport of basketball’s history.From 1965-1967, Wes averaged over 19 rebounds per game. He also averaged over 20 points per game in his career as a whole, becoming the 2nd all-time rebounder and the 11th all-time leading scorer. His 55.8% ranks 10th all-time in career field goal percentage."

Funeral arrangements are pending and the Unseld family kindly ask that donations be made to The Unseld School in lieu of flowers.

Next. The top 100 players in Louisville basketball history. dark