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Wes Unseld: Bullets legend, NBA MVP dies at 74

June 2 (UPI) -- Hall of Fame basketball player Wes Unseld -- the 1968-1969 NBA MVP -- died Tuesday. He was 74.

Unseld's family announced his death in a statement released by the Washington Wizards. Unseld had a history of health issues, which included a recent bout with pneumonia.

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"He was the rock of our family -- an extremely devoted patriarch who reveled in being with his wife, children, friends and teammates," the Unseld family said.

"He was our hero and loved playing and working around the game of basketball for the cities of Baltimore and Washington, D.C., cities he proudly wore on his chest for so many years."

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Unseld was a two-time All-American at Louisville before he became the No. 2 overall pick in the 1968 NBA Draft. He averaged 13.8 points, 18.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists in his first season with the Baltimore Bullets.

The 1968 Rookie of the Year and MVP went on to make the All-Star team five times, lead the league in rebounds and win 1977-1978 NBA Finals MVP.

Wilt Chamberlain and Unseld are the only players in NBA history to win NBA MVP and Rookie of the Year in the same season. Chamberlain claimed both honors in 1960.

Unseld averaged 10.8 points, 14 rebounds and 3.9 assists for his career. His 13,769 career rebounds are the most in NBA history for a player listed at 6-foot-7 or shorter on BasketballReference.com.

He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1988. His No. 41 became the first number retired in Washington's franchise history in 1981.

After his playing career ended, Unseld worked in Washington's front office and served as head coach from 1987 to 1994. He was Washington's general manager from 1996 to 2003.

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He also founded a coed elementary school called the Unseld School in 1978 in southwest Baltimore with his wife, Connie.

"Wes Unseld was one of the most consequential players of his era," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. "An NBA MVP and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, Wes elevated the game by mastering the fundamentals.

"His competitive drive and selfless approach made him a beloved teammate, a respected opponent and a cornerstone of the Washington Wizards franchise, with whom he won an NBA championship.

"Wes also set the model of class, integrity and professionalism for the entire NBA family during stints as a player, coach and team executive with Washington and through his dedication to expanding educational opportunities for children."

Unseld is survived by wife, son Wes Jr. and daughte, Kim. Wes Jr. is an assistant coach for the Denver Nuggets.

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Richard "Dick" Thornburgh, former attorney general of the United States and former governor of Pennsylvania, takes a seat at the witness hearing after U.S. Chief Justice nominee Judge John Roberts testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on September 15, 2005. Thornburgh died on December 31 at age 88. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo

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