NBA legend Wes Unseld died Tuesday morning, according to a statement from his family. Unseld, one of the best defensive and passing centers in basketball history, was 74. He played for the Baltimore Bullets/Washington Capitals/Washington Bullets from 1968-81, delivering that franchise its only NBA championship in 1978.
Unseld "passed away peacefully following lengthy health battles, most recently with pneumonia," the family said.
From 1969 to 1975, Unseld’s teams played the Knicks in the playoffs every single spring. The Knicks emerged victorious every year but one. After the Bullets acquired Elvin Hayes to pair with Unseld, though, Washington went on to make three NBA Finals in 1975, ’78, and ’79.
Unseld ranks seventh all time in NBA rebounds per game with 14. He was an innovator of the long outlet pass, something his godson Kevin Love brought back to the highest levels of basketball. (Unseld and Kevin’s father Stan were teammates on the Bullets for two seasons.)
Unseld was the GM of the franchise later known as the Wizards from 1996 to 2003, a tenure perhaps best-known for signing Michael Jordan.
His son Wes Unseld Jr. is currently an assistant coach with the Denver Nuggets.