Unseld steps into spotlight to promote Wizards preseason game

Former Baltimore Bullets star will be roasted in Washington on Monday

September 25, 2014|By Mike Klingaman | The Baltimore Sun

Wes Unseld has never been one to seek the spotlight.

Yet there he was on Thursday, surrounded by media, NBA players past and present and several hundred youngsters who packed the gym at the Unseld School in West Baltimore for the promotion of a Washington Wizards preseason basketball game to be played in Baltimore on Oct. 20.

"It's a big treat for the kids here to see some of the old [Baltimore] Bullets and the new Wizards," said Unseld, 67, a Hall of Fame center who played 13 years for the franchise in both cities. "We look for motivational teaching moments any time we can get them."

And it's a plus for the city, he said, calling the game between the Wizards and the New Orleans Pelicans at Baltimore Arena "another flower in the hat of the people of Baltimore."

Just crop him out of the picture, said Unseld, who with his wife, Connie, established the private coed school (K-8) 35 years ago.

She runs the school. He cuts the grass, sweeps up and runs the gym where, on Thusday, he sat on the side, cane in hand, happy to let students fawn over current Wizards Marcin Gortat and Otto Porter and former Bullets Mike Riordan and Larry Stewart.

"I'm embarrased by any [personal publicity]," said Unseld, who has had both knees replaced. "I've never been very good with it."

As a player, Unseld thrived as an undersized (6-foot-7) center who'd rather hog rebounds than score points. Wes Unselfish, the media called him. Yet in his first season with the Baltimore Bullets (1968-69) he was named both Rookie of the Year and the NBA's Most Valuable Player. In 1978, he helped the Washington Bullets win the title.

On Monday night, to his chagrin, Unseld will be roasted by former teammates and others at a celebrity benefit at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel in Washington.

"Three months ago, I agreed to do this," he said of the roast, to be hosted by Mike Wilbon of ESPN and James Brown of CBS Sports. "Now, I'm not so sure. I'm not comfortable being the center of attention. I may have to smack some of those people around."

Not to worry, said Riordan, who'll take part in the roast.

"Wes has a good sense of humor and a thick skin," said Riordan, 69, who played with him for six years. "He'll need both because I've been waiting for this for a long time."

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

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