German basketball mourns the loss of longtime national player Ademola Okulaja. “We are shocked and cannot believe Ademola’s death. Our thoughts now are with his family, whom we wish very much strength,” said Ingo Weiss, president of the German Basketball Association.
“We will always be fondly remembered by Ademola, who fought and never gave up, and who always left everything on the field.” “Very hard to understand and very sad…” Okulaja passed away on Tuesday at the age of 46, Marco Pesic, Okulaja’s former teammate, wrote on Twitter. Alba Berlin confirmed. Basketball magazine “Big” reported it first.
Okulaja made his Bundesliga debut with FC Berlin in the 1993/94 season. Managing Director Marco Baldi said, “The Alba family today lost a longtime friend and comrade. Our deepest sympathies are with his relatives.” “His premature death was a mistake and tragic (…). German basketball should forget Ademola and never will, I’m sure of it,” said Pesic, managing director of Bayern Munich.
“Warrior” with 172 appearances for DBB
Born in Nigeria, Okulaja played for the German national team between 1995 and 2008 and made 172 appearances for the DBB shirt. Along with then-star Dirk Nowitzki, he was part of the team that snatched the bronze medal at the 2002 World Cup in the United States.
The winger, nicknamed the “Warrior”, played alongside Alba for Rhein Energy Köln and Broz Bamberg in the Bundesliga. But he also had numerous stations abroad, which appeared in Spain, Italy and Russia. In 2008 he was diagnosed with a tumor. However, he went back and played basketball again. He ended his career in 2010.
Former NBA star Vince Carter, who Okulaja played with in college in North Carolina, also expressed his grief on Twitter. “This is so painful… We will miss you, my son,” the 45-year-old wrote. “You have no doubt touched the lives of many people with your kindness.”
In the German national team, Okulaja was part of the powerful generation surrounding NBA star Nowitzki and longtime captain Patrick Wimmerling. At EM 2005, when the team led by Nowitzki won the silver medal, Okulaja was injured. After his active career, the basketball player worked, among other things, as a television pundit and as a player advisor – including NBA point guard Dennis Schroeder. The cause of death is not yet known. (dpa)