The longtime national basketball player Ademola Okulaja is dead. The Berliner died unexpectedly on Tuesday at the age of 46 in his hometown. 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 Berlin, also left deep marks on Alba. In 1995, at the age of 19, he won the Korać Cup, the greatest success in Alba’s club history 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. “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.