Ranking the 50 greatest NBA players of all time

The Last Dance, Michael Jordan, LeBron James (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
The Last Dance, Michael Jordan, LeBron James (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /
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Wes Unseld, player for the Washington Bullets basketball team. /

47. Wes Unseld

  • Resume: 13 seasons, 1 NBA championship, 1 NBA Finals MVP Award, 1 regular season MVP Award, Rookie of the Year Award, 1-time All-NBA selection, 5-time NBA All-Star, Hall-of-Famer
  • Stats: 10.8 PPG, 14.0 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, .509/—/.633 shooting splits, 16.0 career PER, 110.1 win shares

On paper, including Wes Unseld as one of the greatest 50 players of all time is about as believable as Ray Allen’s acting in He Got Game. Unseld was an undersized center at 6’7″, he couldn’t protect the rim, he was a slow behemoth, he looked like a bouncer for a ’70s disco club and he averaged a mere eight points per game for the last eight years of his career. How is this guy in the Hall of Fame again?

Oh, right. For one thing, he was an enforcer in the paint that most big men didn’t want to cross. He was a rebounding maniac and effective screen-setter, even if it was only because, again, the dude was a human woolly mammoth.

Unseld was a leader of four Washington Bullets teams that went to the Finals, and though he only won one title in his 13 seasons with the Bullets, he was the Finals MVP in 1978, when Elvin Hayes buckled under the pressure.

Wes joins Wilt Chamberlain as one of only two players to ever win the NBA’s Rookie of the Year and MVP awards in the same season, and despite a few injuries that set him back offensively, Unseld’s impact went way beyond the box score.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that he helped revolutionize fast breaks with his infamous outlet passes that led to easy transition points. Those rifle passes fired the Bullets into transition and were yet another strong area of Unseld’s game that couldn’t be measured on a stat sheet. There’s a reason every time Kevin Love throws one of those touchdown passes, the name “Wes Unseld” comes up.