Basketball Germany mourns
Former Alba professional Ademola Okulaja died
Former Alba professional and national basketball player 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 had previously reported, including dying “FAZ” and the basketball magazine “BIG”. Nothing is known about the cause of death.
Okulaja grew up in Berlin and started playing club basketball at DTV Charlottenburg. He went to college in North Carolina and was a top performer on the UNC team, the legendary “Tar Heels,” for four years. His dream of the NBA just failed. Later, Okulaja played two seasons for Alba Berlin, winning the German championship and the Korac Cup with his hometown. The native Nigerian was also successful with FC Barcelona and other top teams in Spain, Russia and Germany. As one of the few Germans, he also prevailed in the Euroleague.
The man, whose nickname was “Warrior” (“Warrior”), played 172 international matches for the German national team. With his determination and assertiveness, he inspired a whole generation of German basketball fans. At the side of superstar Dirk Nowitzki, the 2.06 meter tall model athlete celebrated the sensational bronze medal at the 2002 World Championships and fourth place at the 2003 European Championships. In the shadow of Nowitzki, Okulaja was the emotional leader and captain of this team. At the Vice European Championships in 2005, a knee injury forced him to watch.
In 2008 Okulaja fell ill with cancer. In 2009 he stated that he had recovered. Shortly thereafter, however, he was forced to end his career in the service of Bamberg. Later, among other things, he placed Dennis Schröder in the NBA and also looked after Daniel Theis, who is currently in the semifinals with the Boston Celtics for the NBA title. Most recently, Okulaja worked as an event manager. He leaves behind a wife and two sons.
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 to say they were shaken, and Okulaja’s previous clubs and college felt the same way.
The German Basketball Association also sent condolences to Okulaja’s family. “Ademola was as successful a player as he was a person. Personally, I lost a great basketball friend and will miss him very much! We will always fondly remember the struggling and never-giving Ademola, who always left everything on the field. May he rest rest,” said DBB President Ingo Weiss.
Jordi Bartomeu, the boss of the Euroleague, paid tribute to the Berliners with the words: “Ademola Okulaja has embodied everything that is good about our sport as a true competitor on the field and as an even better gentleman off it – and we could not be sadder to hear that he gone from us.”
Alba Managing Director Marco Baldi also spoke up: “We are deeply saddened by Ademola’s death. He was an albatross right from the start and one of the first to start a great basketball career from our youth program. The Alba family lost a friend and longtime companion today.”
Okulaja’s ex-club Brose Bamberg tweeted: “Much too early… Take care up there!”. And FC Bayern Munich also mourned: “Rest in peace, warrior!”
Broadcast: rbb24, May 17, 2022, 10 p.m