Basketball Germany mourns: Former Alba professional Ademola Okulaja has died at the age of 46

Basketball Germany mourns

Former Alba professional Ademola Okulaja has died

imago pictures / camera 4

Audio: rbb24 inforadio | 18/05/2022 | Sandra Schwarte | Picture: imago pictures / camera 4

The former professional and national basketball player from Alba, Ademola Okulaja, has died at the age of 46. The sympathy for the fate of the “warrior” who was valued as a person and as a player is great.

Former basketball player Ademola Okulaja has died at the age of 46. This was confirmed by Okulaja’s former club Alba Berlin to rbb. Several media outlets had previously reported, including “FAZ” and the basketball magazine “BIG”. Nothing is known about the cause of death.

Okulaja grew up in Berlin and started playing club basketball on DTV Charlottenburg. He went to college in North Carolina and was a top player on the UNC team, the legendary “Tar Heels”, for four years. His dream of the NBA failed. Later, Okulaja played two seasons for Alba Berlin and won the German championship and the Korac Cup with his hometown. The native Nigerian also had success with FC Barcelona and other top teams in Spain, Russia and Germany. As one of the few Germans, he also won the Euroleague.

Ademola Okulaja for an Alba Berlin match.  Source: imago images / Camera 4
For 20 years Okulaja was a professional basketball player, he was a top player in European top clubs – an absolute exception for German players at the time. | Picture: imago pictures / camera 4

Nickname: “Warrior”

The man, whose nickname was “Warrior” (“Warrior”), played 172 international matches for the German national team. With his will, his fearlessness and his assertiveness, he inspired an entire generation of fans of German basketball – and always embodied the Berlin street basketball player, who could often be seen playing on the city’s outdoor courts in the summer.

Next to superstar Dirk Nowitzki, the 2.06 meter tall model athlete celebrated the sensational bronze medal at the World Championships in 2002 and fourth place at the European Championships in 2003. In the shadow of Nowitzki, Okulaja was the emotional leader and captain of these teams. At the European Championships in 2005, a knee injury forced him to watch.

In 2008, Okulaja became ill with cancer. In 2009, he declared that he had recovered. Shortly afterwards, however, he was forced to end his career in Bamberg’s service. Later, he placed, among others, Dennis Schröder in the NBA and also passed Daniel Theis, who is currently in the semifinals at the Boston Celtics for the NBA title. Most recently, Okulaja has worked as an event manager. He leaves behind a wife and two sons.

We are devastated and simply cannot believe Ademola’s death.

DBB President Ingo Weiss

Great sadness among fans and former teammates

Okulaja’s surprising death caused great dismay in the German basketball community. Many fans and several internationals took to Twitter on Tuesday, and Okulaja’s former clubs and college commemorate him as well.

The German Basketball Association also sent condolences to Okulaja’s family. “Ademola was a great player as well as a person. Personally, I lost a great basketball friend and will miss him very much! We will always happily remember the fighting and never-given Ademola, who always gave his all on the court. May he rest,” said DBB President Ingo Weiss.

Jordi Bartomeu, the head of the Euroleague, praised the Berliner with the words: “Ademola Okulaja has embodied all that is good about our sport as a true competitor on the pitch and as an even better gentleman outside it – and we could ‘It is not more sad to hear that he has left us. ”

NBA legend Vince Carter, Okulaja’s former North Carolina college teammate, paid tribute to a special tribute to man: “Without a doubt, you touched the lives of many others with your kindness,” Carter tweeted.

Alba CEO Marco Baldi also spoke: “We are deeply saddened by the death of Ademola. He was an albatross right from the start and one of the first to start a fantastic basketball career from our youth program. The Alba family has one today. Friend and longtime companion. “

Okulaja’s ex-club Brose Bamberg tweeted: “Too early … Watch out up there!”. And FC Bayern Munich also mourned: “Rest in peace, warrior!”

Broadcast: rbb24, 17 May 2022, at 22.00

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