Basketball Hall of Famer Wes Unseld, one of two players in NBA history to win Rookie of the Year and MVP awards in the same season, died Monday, the Washington Wizards announced. He was 74.
Unseld had been battling several health issues, most recently pneumonia, his family said.
“He was the rock of our family -- an extremely devoted patriarch who reveled in being with his wife, children, friends and teammates,” the family said. “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 was a five-time All-Star and was named the league’s top rookie and most valuable player during the 1968-69 season, joining Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to achieve that feat in the same season.
Unseld, a two-time All-American at Louisville, was a No. 2 overall pick in the 1968 NBA draft. The 6-foot-7, 245-pounder led the Bullets to an NBA title in 1978. Unseld was named the MVP of the seven-game championship series against the Seattle SuperSonics.
Unseld was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1988.
“Wes was truly a gentle giant,” Phil Chenier, who played nine seasons with Unseld, told ESPN. “His scowl could be intimidating but really he was a kind, thoughtful and protective comrade. Wes is the epitome of a great teammate, team leader and friend.”
Unseld coached the Bullets from 1988 to 1994 and made one playoff appearance.
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