The outlet pass and Wes Unseld go together like peanut butter and jelly, like Peaches & Herb.
The moment Wes captured a rebound, wheeled his mammoth body around, instantly surveyed the court, and caught a teammate speeding down court, was the moment the opponent was practically doomed to ceding 2 points.
That moment happened often in Unseld’s career. With an average of 14 rebounds per game, Unseld ruled the glass. He also ruled several other facets of the game. He stood only 6’7″ and his blocks per game are paltry, but Unseld was a stern defender on bigger centers who had trouble maneuvering around and moving the stout Wes.
With four assists dished out nightly, Unseld didn’t just throw a good outlet pass, he was great passing in the half court. Bruising opponents with picks was another Unseld claim to fame. In fact just bruising opponents in the course of natural events was Unseld’s way. The man just physically wore you out with his strength and being.
For the Bullets franchise (in all its various incarnations), though, Unseld is really the only bright moment in their long history.
Prior to Unseld (1962 – 1968): 205 – 358 (.364 win percentage)
With Unseld (1969 – 1981): 618 – 448 (.580 win percentage)
After Unseld (1982 – 2013): 1050 – 1526 (.408 win percentage)
The franchise had 10 winning seasons in Unseld’s 13 years and have had eight in the other 39 seasons. There’s a reason why the NBA went positively insane back in 1969 when Unseld lifted the moribund franchise to a league-best 57 wins. He was not only Rookie of the Year, but also MVP that season. The Bullets made the NBA Finals four times in his tenure and won the title in 1978.
He was one of the best leaders in NBA history and despite claims to his lack of talent and athleticism, the man was filled with plenty of both. His career stacks up favorably with just about any great center you can think of.
Finals MVP (1978)
All-NBA 1st Team (1969)
5x All-Star (1969, 1971-’73, 1975)
Rookie of the Year (1969)
All-Rookie 1st Team (1969)
NBA – 984 Games
10.8 PPG, 14.0 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, 50.9% FG, 63.3% FT
FG% Leader (1976), RPG Leader (1975)
11th All-Time Rebounds, 6th All-Time RPG