Over and Back: Remembering Wes Unseld

Wes Unseld, player for the Washington Bullets basketball team.
Wes Unseld, player for the Washington Bullets basketball team. /

The Over and Back Classic NBA Podcast discusses the life and career of NBA legend Wes Unseld.

Jason Mann and Rich Kraetsch discuss the life and career of Hall-of-Famer Wes Unseld, his famed recruiting from the University of Kentucky (the first black man ever recruited by the school), his heralded entrance into the NBA and becoming one of only two players in NBA history to win Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the same season (Wilt Chamberlain).

Additional topics and career highlights include:

  • 1968-69 NBA MVP and Rookie of the Year
    • Only player other than Wilt Chamberlain to accomplish this
  • MVP season averaged 13.8 points and 18.2 rebounds per game
    • Lowest PPG average for any MVP in history.
  • Began his career as more of a scorer (peaked with 16.2 PPG in 1970) but shifted away from that after the Bullets acquired Elvin Hayes — more like a Ben Wallace type for the second half of his career, but a bigger scorer early on (more like Dikembe Mutombo — their first five seasons are rather similar)
  • Wash Post: Asked once about his modest stats, Mr. Unseld replied: “It’s not my job to look good. It’s my job to make other people look good.”
  • 14th in Box Plus-Minus (3.1) from 1975-81 (min. 7,000 minutes)
    • Pretty impressive considering it was the second half of his career
  • 5-time All-Star
  • 13th all-time in career rebounds, seventh in RPG, 24th in total rebounding percetnage
  • 3rd all-time behind Russell and Chamberlain in RPG in playoffs (14.9)
  • Led Bullets to four Finals in nine years (three in five years) and was the Finals MVP in their 1978 title win
    • Made the playoffs 12 straight years after the team had never had a winning season. Also won three “pennants” in his career.
  • One of handful of players with an All-NBA First Team appearance (in his rookie season) and subsequently never made an All-NBA team again
  • Known best for stout defense, great rebounding, sharp outlet passes and crushing picks — very quick hands and great anticipation. Undersized at 6-foot-7 but burly and able to punish his opponents
  • Godfather to Kevin Love (whose middle name is Wesley) — Kevin’s dad played for the Bullets with Unseld
  • Also a longtime executive and coach for the Bullets.

We’ll also go season-by-season detailing Unseld and the Bullets’ rise into the NBA’s upper echelon, including their miracle NBA championship in 1978 as well as a few key games in his career.

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