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Louisville legend Wes Unseld has passed away

Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

One of the state’s all-time legends has passed away.

This morning, the family of Wes Unseld announced the Louisville native and Basketball Hall of Fame inductee has passed away at the age of 74.

“It is with profound sadness that we share that our adored husband, father and grandfather Wes Unseld passed away peacefully this morning surrounded by family following lengthy health battles, most recently with pneumonia,” the statement read. “He was the rock of our family – an extremely devoted patriarch who reveled in being with his wife, children, friends and teammates. He was a hero and loved playing basketball for the cities of Baltimore and Washington D.C., cities he proudly wore on his chest for so many years.”

Prior to his storied NBA career, Unseld starred at Seneca High School, where he won Kentucky state championships in 1963 and 1964.

Out of high school, Unseld was recruited by over 100 colleges, including the University of Kentucky. In fact, when Adolph Rupp offered the 6-foot-7 forward, Unseld became the first African American athlete offered an athletic scholarship to the school.

Instead, Unseld decided to enroll at the University of Louisville in 1965, where he first averaged 35.8 points and 23.6 rebounds over 14 games for the school’s freshman team. From there, Unseld scored 1,686 points (20.6 per game) and grabbed 1,551 rebounds (18.9 per game) over the course of the next three years, earning NCAA All-American honors in 1967 and 1968.

Unseld was drafted by the Kentucky Colonels in the 1968 ABA Draft and second overall in the Baltimore Bullets in the 1968 NBA Draft.

In 984 games in the league, Unseld averaged a double-double, with averages of 10.8 points and 14.0 rebounds per game over the course of his career. The native of Kentucky was then inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1988 before being named one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players of all time in 1996.

Here is a list of Unseld’s accolades throughout his basketball career:

  • NBA champion (1978)
  • NBA Finals MVP (1978)
  • NBA Most Valuable Player (1969)
  • 5× NBA All-Star (1969, 1971–1973, 1975)
  • All-NBA First Team (1969)
  • NBA Rookie of the Year (1969)
  • NBA All-Rookie First Team (1969)
  • NBA rebounding leader (1975)
  • J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award (1975)
  • NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team
  • No. 41 retired by Washington Wizards
  • 2× Consensus first-team All-American (1967, 1968)
  • 3× First-team All-MVC (1966–1968)
  • No. 31 retired by Louisville Cardinals

Rest in peace to a basketball legend.

Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

7 Comments for Louisville legend Wes Unseld has passed away

  1. secrick
    10:48 am June 2, 2020 Permalink

    So sorry to hear this. I remember listening to the radio when he played in the State Trnt. Seemed all you could hear the announcer say was GOAL BY UNSELD. That has stuck with me for some reason. RIP

  2. bbn606
    11:17 am June 2, 2020 Permalink

    Possessed the greatest outlet pass ever.

  3. IrishCat
    11:37 am June 2, 2020 Permalink

    As a student of the game, he’s one of the guys I truly wish I had gotten to see play while he was playing. RIP to a legend of the game and of the commonwealth.

  4. rockyou
    1:16 pm June 2, 2020 Permalink

    one of the best players I have ever seen, PERIOD!! I ran into him while going thru the Atlanta airport after he retired, and he was a HUGE man, it would have taken 3 days to walk around him. We talked for a few minutes and he was such a nice man, as a side note he was team mates with UK great Kevin Grevey

  5. RexRox
    1:58 pm June 2, 2020 Permalink

    Every time I hear someone (usually younger than me) say Darrell Griffith is UofL’s greatest player, I tell them they obviously never saw Unseld play. College or NBA. When I was 12, my brother and I went to the Kentucky-Indiana all-star game. We were autograph collectors and Unseld was at the top of our wish list. We waited outside the locker room door where a security guard was stationed. Someone called the guard off to the side for a moment and a few of us kids rushed inside the locker room. All the players were gone except Unseld. When we got inside, Wes was just exiting the shower. He simply wrapped the towel around his waist and patiently signed all of our programs. I still have it! A year later he would be the NBA MVP and Rookie of the Year.

    • Bluehender
      2:56 pm June 2, 2020 Permalink

      Think about that when you consider his greatness. Rookie of the year AND MVP in the NBA. That’s quite an accomplishment

  6. Looother
    3:16 pm June 2, 2020 Permalink

    I can still hear John Tong: Gooaal byyy UNSELD…