The longtime national basketball player Ademola Okulaja is dead. The Berliner died unexpectedly on Tuesday at the age of 46 in his hometown. Nothing is known about the cause of death so far. Okulaja is one of the best-known and most popular German basketball players and, as captain alongside superstar Dirk Nowitzki, was instrumental in the upswing of the national team in the 90s and 2000s.

He ran a total of 172 times for the DBB team and took part in six European championships and two world championships. In 2002 he won bronze at the World Cup with the national team. “We are devastated and cannot believe Ademola’s death.

Our thoughts are now with his family, who we wish a lot of strength. Ademola was as great a player as he was a human. We will always fondly remember the fighting and never giving up Ademola, who always left everything on the field,” said DBB President Ingo Weiss.

Okulaja, who was born in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1975 but spent his childhood in the German capital, has also left deep traces in Berlin. In his youth he played a lot of streetball, but also in a club with DTV Charlottenburg and TuS Lichterfelde. At the age of 19 he won the Korać Cup with Alba, the biggest success in the history of the Berlin club to date.

He then went to the University of North Carolina in the USA, where he played with Vince Carter, among others. “This hurts so much, we will miss you,” the former NBA superstar wrote on Twitter. “There is no doubt that you have touched the lives of many people with your kind manner. You will never be forgotten. I love you.”

After college, Okulaja, whose nickname was Warrior, meanwhile returned to Alba and won the German championship. He later played for various European clubs such as FC Barcelona before ending his career in Bamberg in 2009. After his time as an active basketball player, he stayed with the sport and advised NBA professional Dennis Schröder, among others. “Ademola was an albatross from the very beginning and one of the first to start a great basketball career from our youth program. The Alba family lost a friend and long-time companion today,” says Alba manager Marco Baldi.