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Basketball Legend Wes Unseld Dies at 74

Wes Unseld, an NBA Hall of Famer who played center for the then-Washington Bullets, died Tuesday following after a bout with pneumonia, complicated by years of health challenges, at the age of 74.

His family shared their thoughts about his many contributions and sacrifices.

“He was the rock of our family — an extremely devoted patriarch who reveled in being with his wife, children, friends and teammates,” the family’s statement read. “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.”

Unseld spent all of his 13-year career with Washington. The five-time All-Star remains just one of only two players to ever receive the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards in the same season (1968-69). The other — another Hall of Famer, Wilt Chamberlain.

“On behalf of the Wizards organization and the entire MSE Family, I would like to extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to the Unseld family, including his wife Connie, daughter Kimberly, son Wes Jr. and his two grandchildren as well as his large number of extended family and friends,” Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said in a statement. “We all admired Wes as the pillar of this franchise for so long but it was his work off the court that will truly leave an impactful legacy and live on through the many people he touched and influenced throughout his life of basketball and beyond.”

During his career, Unseld averaged 10.8 points and 14.0 rebounds while establishing an essential foundation for the team as the then-Bullets developed into contenders in the 1970s.

“Those of us who were fortunate enough to spend time with Wes knew him as a generous and thoughtful man whose strong will was matched only by his passion and drive for uplifting others,” Wizards General Manager Tommy Sheppard said. “His physical prowess, undeniable talent and on-court demeanor may have struck fear in opponents throughout the NBA but he will be remembered best as a mentor, leader and friend.”

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