On June 2, 2020, Wes Unseld passed away at the age of 74 after battling several health issues over the previous years. On that day, we lost a legend who’s still one of the most underrated centers in NBA history.
When talking about some of the greatest players who ever played the game, Unseld often gets lost in the conversation. The 6-foot-7 big man was not the type who would come out with jaw-dropping performances night in and night out, but one thing is clear: Unseld was an excellent player.
Below are five statistical facts that prove why Unseld is still underrated to this day.
Wes Unseld was never a big scorer. He averaged 10.8 points per game throughout his career. However, there’s no denying that his best asset was his ability to crash the boards. As a rookie, Unseld grabbed 18.2 rebounds per contest. He won the rebounding title during the 1974-75 season after logging 14.8 rebounds per game, with 4.4 of those boards coming on the offensive end.
Unseld’s 13,769 total career rebounds ranks 13th overall all-time. Now would be a good time to remind you that he was just 6-foot-7.
Simply put, Wes Unseld was a great passer from the 5 spot. At one point in his career, the undersized big man averaged a career-best 5.2 dimes per game, which is on par with a number of starting point guards in the game today.
Perhaps the most amazing part of his assist numbers is the fact that his 3,822 career dimes ranks second all-time in Washington Wizards franchise history, second only to John Wall.
3. Win Shares
The Win Shares stat aims to place a value on a player’s contributions to his team’s overall success. Theoretically speaking, the more Win Shares, the bigger his contribution is to the team’s success. Basically, it’s how important a certain player is for his team.
For his part, Wes Unseld was extremely important for his team. He was tops in Win Shares for his squad for five seasons, during which he was also part of the top 10 in the entire league. He amassed 110.1 Win Shares in the regular season throughout his career, which is ranked 64th all-time.
4. Franchise Records
Wes Unseld played 13 years in the NBA, all of which were with the Wizards franchise, though they were the Bullets back then. He was so loyal that he saw the team transition to three different names throughout his tenure, from the Baltimore Bullets to the Capital Bullets and then the Washington Bullets.
Unseld currently holds several franchise records, including games played (984), minutes played (35,832), rebounds (13,769), personal fouls (2,762), Defensive Win Shares (64.1), Win Shares (110.1), and Value Over Replacement Player (25.3).
5. The Accolades
Now, technically, these are not stats. However, we cannot overlook all the accolades Wes Unseld amassed throughout his decorated career. Coming out of Louisville, Unseld was selected second overall in the 1968 NBA Draft. To say that he took the league by storm would be an understatement.
As a rookie, Unseld was an All-Star (his first of five All-Star selections), and he was named to the All-Rookie and All-NBA teams. He won the Rookie of the Year award by a mile and was even named Most Valuable Player that same season. To date, Unseld is one of only two players who have won MVP in their rookie year, with the other being the great Wilt Chamberlain.
In 1978, Unseld helped the Washington Bullets to the franchise’s one and only championship. He was nearing the twilight of his career at that point (he retired three years later), but his dominance in the NBA Finals was still on full display. This led to Unseld being awarded the Finals MVP trophy.
For all of his contributions to the sport, Wes Unseld was enshrined to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1988.