Thursday night’s unveiling of a bust commemorating Bullets great Wes Unseld Sr. brought together a collection of franchise dignitaries and alumni that only a man of his stature could. Chairman Ted Leonsis, general manager Tommy Sheppard, Sashi Brown and John Thompson III were there from the organization’s leadership structure. So were former players like Phil Chenier and Harvey Grant.
Everyone arrived at Section 111 on the concourse of Capital One Arena to celebrate Unseld Sr.’s legacy, get a look at the newest piece of memorabilia at the stadium and also support the Unseld family, which was well-represented. Unseld Sr.’s widow, Connie Unseld, as well as his children and grandchildren were on hand.
For them, it was an emotional evening, highlighted by his son Wes Unseld Jr., now the head coach of the Wizards, and Connie embracing each other as they got their first look once the curtain was pulled.
“I am delighted all-around, just very happy to be here,” Connie Unseld said before mentioning she and Unseld Sr. were married for 50 years before his passing on June 2, 2020.
“It’s been a rough time, but this has brought so much joy to me. He has brought so much joy to me, too, coming back home is unbelievable. It’s a celebration. I’m so happy.”
Wes Unseld Jr. and Connie Unseld, widow of Wes Unseld Sr., take their first look at the bust of Unseld Sr. Special moment at Capital One Arena. pic.twitter.com/LBcgfKjLJu
— Chase Hughes (@ChaseHughesNBCS) October 21, 2021
Unseld Sr.’s daughter, Kim, also spoke. She explained how as a child she didn’t fully understand what he meant both to basketball and the Washington, D.C. area.
Thursday’s ceremony and how well it was attended further illustrated the impact he left behind.
“This makes not only us more proud, but it will make Daddy, I’m sure, smiling looking down. We’re grateful, we’re happy, we’re excited and we hope that this excitement will continue,” Kim Unseld said.
The event was held with good timing, both intentional and unintentional. The day before, Unseld Sr. was named to the NBA’s top 75 players list. The league is celebrating its 75th anniversary and a collection of voters deemed Unseld Sr. one of the best to ever pick up a basketball.
It also took place the day after Unseld Jr. earned his first win as head coach of the Wizards and the day before he was set to coach his first regular-season home game in the building his father used to work in as an executive and where his number is retired. The Wizards hiring Unseld Jr. was a homecoming that has energized both the team and its fans.
“I really do appreciate this gesture and I look forward to walking through these halls once again to see not only that, but to take a peek up into the rafters,” Unseld Jr. said.
“I think tomorrow will be a special night for a number of reasons, but this makes it that much more special.”