Wes Unseld Always Did The Dirty Work
The. Last week, the basketball world lost a legend. Sad News to report legendary. Baltimore Washington bullets player WES UNSELD has died. UNSELD was the league's MVP rookie of the year nineteen, Sixty, eight sixty nine season and a five time NBA All star, West unseld played his entire hall of fame career for the same franchise and lead Washington to their only championship in one, thousand, nine, hundred, seventy eight. Today. We're by the Athletics Fred. Katz who spoke with the number of unseld teammates to look back at his life and career, including the physical play and the unselfishness that defined him I mean look. He average like ten points a game in his career, and was a surefire hall of Famer. I guess just a great microcosm for what his career was. The Guy who was going to do all this stuff nobody wanted to do and he was GonNa do it at an elite level. From wondering athletic I'm can beat the Davidson and I'm under Scotto. It's Tuesday June ninth and this is the lead. It felt like something was happening. There is something about the emotion. For. The past don't. Pay Mc. Listen this story. Be The athlete. It stays with. So Fred first question. How would you describe WES UNSELD playing style? Well he was. Physical About six, seven, six, eight about two fifty. BEEN NFL her. He was this undersized center yet to find ways to compensate for that right, so he was a tremendous rebounder just because he got incredible position aimed Johnson again. Tapped up an end by big wash. WHO had rebounding position? Until twenty three rebounds that. Hid these incredibly soft hands, which allowed him to grab rebounds and make these amazing passes one of the best outlet passers specifically of all time. And the robot by way of buffets. Outlook badly known so well. The ultimate jody work kind of guide about crowd applauding the accident hunsel. What a job here that in this I? Just a little bit of thank. You Talk to some of his former teammates. What did they say about him? And and the way that he played I? Think the ultimate thing that you get from them is that he was incredibly unselfish. He didn't care about how many shots he got game. He would sacrifice his body. He would leave games. Just totally bruised up. He would kick. Guys just need guys opposing players in the back of the leg games, Cuba throw elbows. He would take elbows, so I spoke to Phil Chenier. WHO A longtime bullet! He liked the physical contact bill. Go get all the. Thought you would get in front of him? He kind of does you. Pushing. Course Survi- like these and take plus for him to push me out the way you know, get picked up a lot of that Bob. Dandridge was teammates with him for four years, and he really saw from two perspectives, because Dandridge was a member of those really really good teams with Kareem abdul-jabbar and Oscar Robertson before he ended up coming over to the bullets. Bobby Dandridge told me that when he was with the bucks and t much with Kareem abdul-jabbar. That Kareem said you know, I might have gotten forty on him, but I'm walking away with Bruce's on my hips and my legs and my body. Played Against Kareem them and bruise in them and Fowler them and I had the opportunity to sink Corinne just. For the peel of relief, when he could come out of the game, and get a rare from the physicality of wet, and that's kind of what it was. It was just a remarkably unpleasant experience, being guarded by him, and you told us great story about West until being interviewed by a former reporter from the Washington Post, so this is David. Pretty David Dupree. Legendary beat writer for the Washington Post and covering the bullets for much less unseld career. In this one time he walked into the locker room and he saw west. This was after a game immediately after he saw sitting in front of his locker, shirtless smoking a cigarette. Beer took his shoes Jersey off all these bruises and stuff you know. You're like smoke. You. You burn up like one word about knocking destructive. You can write that I smoked. You can write that I drank. But you better not say one word about that I'm indestructible and I think that's like the ultimate wes unseld tale, right? It's him saying. Yes, say whatever you want about me, but people better not know. That I'm moral because I'm going to go out there, and I'm going to fight with somebody the next night to and I. Don't want them thinking that they can hit me in the ribs and I'm going to bruise. So. Came into the League in one, thousand, nine, hundred, sixty eight. How much did he transform the Baltimore Bullets when he arrives? Oh completely by the time they draft. Wes unseld, nineteen, sixty eight. They have still never had a season where they finished above five hundred, coming off a year where they go thirty, six, forty six, they had some solid young talent, Earl Monroe was coming off of his rookie year, but they were still an afterthought within the league they draft unsettled, second overall, and all of a sudden they shoot from thirty six wins to fifty seven wins just during that rookie year from contender for rookie of the year honor. Say Forty Five. Becomes one of two players in NBA history to this day to an MVP as a rookie season. I think West unseld, not just with these physical play. The hand of the way that he changed how that organization operated had a major impact in not just turning around their win total, but kind turning around the entire way that the organization conducted itself well, and in addition to transforming the bullets. Wes unseld apparently also transforms his height when he came into the League. So the story at least as he used to tell, it was before the nineteen sixty eight draft, he measured up at six foot, four and five eighths, but if you check behind, he was listed at was listed at six foot seven. I measured for the rare, and they told me that there's no way with the simple each ship. Ship what? The bullet said they didn't want to draft a center that was under seven because there were a ton of great big men back then, and the game was really ruled by big man. Cream. Abdul, Jabbar was coming in, and will chamberlain was still awesome, and you just couldn't justify I guess taking a center who was six foot, four and five eighths, so the bullet said if we're taking you center your seven, and they just kind of listed him at six foot, seven to justify taking a six foot, four and five center, and it worked. He guarded those guys as entire career, and he's looked at is one of the best defensive centers of his era. As you mentioned. He's one of only two players to win an MVP award in his rookie season, the other being wilt chamberlain, but the crazy thing about that is he was the fifth leading scorer on his own team when he won league. MVP How is that possible? Well first of all, I'm not so sure it's something that would happen nowadays like. That voters work I think the voting is changed, but it's a great example in general of how much basketball has to do with things other than scoring for yourself. Because he was great at pretty much everything else, he was still a fine, enough score, average thirteen again that year, which especially as a rookie coming into the League is pretty good, but he averaged eighteen boards game, which is ridiculous number now and was still a fantastic number. Then he was already a great defensive player. Right off the BAT, which is super rare at age, and I think most importantly in the voting I think it probably had a lot. Lot to do with the Wind Joe I. Mean they go from thirty six to fifty seven wins, and you look at the roster, and you think all right. What changed well? They added Wes Unseld, but I think it's also kind of a tribute to how great he was at all the dirty work stuff. I mean, look you ever Ge like ten points. A game in his career was a surefire hall of Famer. I guess just a great microcosm for what his career was. The Guy who was going to do all this stuff nobody wanted to do and he was going to do it at an elite level. With on once, said that his favourite season in the NBA was his rookie year. Because I think that was the first time that this team disorganization started to develop. Traditionally. It was one of those things where we became close knit and we started. Something that we tried to get other guys to live up. The bullets were really a blank slate. When he went there, there wasn't an identity in the history of the franchise they had been around for not yet a decade. This was kind of to some degree a new franchise people didn't really associate with anything positive or even much negative yet. They were just kind of a franchise that wasn't much in a time of the NBA that was. was really to this point dominated by one or two teams right and I think he came in and all of a sudden. They're one of the best teams in the NBA and I think he took a lot of pride in that transition. He was league MVP collected a lot of awards over the course of his career, but it seems like he genuinely did not care about recognition. No. He didn't care at all. ACCOLADE or Luder. Ride your mom in it. Get a lot of stuff ever complained about that. He would be one set. The water behind foes. Would make passes. That's the reason. He played the way that he did. He just didn't care about recognition. He didn't care about recognition his life I mean he and his wife put together a school that they opened up in the middle of his playing career in the late one, thousand nine hundred seventy s called unseld school in Baltimore. And he didn't even tell a number teammates about it just because he didn't do it for the props, he just Kinda did stuff because he thought it was the right thing to do. He had a code of ethics that he believed in. And that's kind of what he lived by, and I think that translated to his basketball with the way the he performs, he was a very low maintenance personality, very low ego, personality, and I think that kind of shine through in most of the things that he did so the bullets became a perennial playoff team with unsettled, but for his first nine years they came up short in the playoffs including getting swept in the NBA finals twice. They have beaten the wash. Credible. Wes unseld deal with those losses, not well I. I think that really brought him down. They got crushed by the bucks in seventy one, and they got crushed by the warriors and seventy five I mean. To sweeps those get. Those series weren't even competitive. Even scrap one by the time they got back to the finals in nineteen, seventy, eight his third trip, he had never even won a finals game at that point and you know. The nineteen seventy eight finals was kind of an amazing thing never in my wildest dreams, and I I would stand before you on this Sunday and save for the championship. We've got Washington and Seattle to amazing turnarounds by these ball clubs. This pretty incredible. Incredible because that team won forty four games, wes unseld played for the bullets for thirteen years there were eat west unseld bullets teams that won more games than the seventy eight team, so they play the Sonics and seventy eight, and that's series was incredibly close I mean that's series wasn't just a seven game series. Six of those seven games where within single digits you actually talked to Phil, Chenier about game seven in the seventy eight finals. What did he tell you about was unsettled? He said that West would do anything short of commit murder. He has this determination. He said I do anything shorter word. To wear the gapes out, and I think that team was wildly competitive about wanting to win that game seven and it was a great game seven. Washington that come on I am Bernie. BICKERSTAFF are lysine over there as the Washington bullets jubilantly file off the floor and the crowd here in Seattle rather than. Come Stewart Creek, and gives both teams are tremendous, ovation, Freddie, Brown and Wash until shaking hands at Mentor Somebody that. Deck to the to the City Baltimore in Washington and the Organization and somebody that was. Good teammate all the time all these year. Couldn't help but be happen for him. I think it meant everything to him. He puts so much at risk throughout his career and sacrifice so much throughout his career, he didn't care about winning finals MVP and seventy eight. He just kind of cared that he won the finals Andy cared that he was going out there and putting his body through in order to help his team win, and the fact that you added into the greater context of look at all that he had to do to get to this point during his entire career, it must have been incredibly overwhelming to win. That title and based on what everybody told me it sure seemed like that was the case. There's lots of great ways to start off your day a good breakfast walking the dog, but what about starting the day with making up your bed? I mean what feels better than a freshly made bed. How about this sheets that go on it Brooklyn in his home of the Internet's favorite sheets, and once I put a set on my bed, brought new life to my bedroom space. Now I can't wait to crawl into bed every night. 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Office for most of nineteen, ninety six to two thousand and three Michael Jordan spliced in there for a little bit, but for the most part wes unseld is running the team from nineteen, ninety six to two thousand and three, and in the meantime in his personal life. He's still dedicating himself to the school that he put together, which is still going on in Baltimore forty something years after he opened it his wife. Connie is still running that school to this day. His daughter is a teacher there now, and he would go in there, and he would drive the bus. They will call a Mr. West the kids and the kids just as Mr Wes. He'd go in there. He would drive the bus or he would paint the gym or if they needed to put backboards in the gym. He'd put got up. He was doing routine maintenance work. I mean it's funny because he was kind of doing the same job for the school that he was doing for the bullets where he figuring I. Don't really care about doing the stuff where people see me. He was just doing the stuff for the school that matters taking the kids to school. I love imagining the look on parents face if it's like nineteen ninety and you got a thirty five year old parent who grew up worshipping Wes Unseld, and you've got thirty five year old parent putting their kid on the bus and you look at the bus driver is wes unseld I just. I just can't imagine what that would be I mean. I'm from New York and I'm trying to imagine what would happen if I grew up in the nineties New York if I put my feature kid on the school bus and the bus driver is Derek Jada like. I just can't imagine how I would react to that. The fact that he stayed in basketball. Further shows is unbelievable. Love for the game. And I think all the stuff we did with the school. Just further shows how much dedicated himself to the causes that he believed in, and in the ways that he believed that those causes should be dedicated right. A key wasn't necessarily getting in front of the school and giving inspirational speeches about. Here's what you can become if you try hard enough. That wasn't the way that he chose to contribute each us to contribute to paint jobs and bus driving which was. A far less glorious way to do it, but that was his legacy right just being glorious at the totally not glorious things or Fred. Thanks so much for joining us today. Yeah, thanks for me this great. You can follow Fred. Katz is coverage of the Washington Wizards and read his story in remembrance of Wes unseld at the athletic dot com. From wondering and the athletic I'm under scelzo. See You tomorrow.