Euroleague Basketball joins the family of international basketball in mourning the premature passing of a star person and player, Ademola Okulaja, at age 46.
Euroleague Basketball mourns Ademola Okulaja
Mr. Okulaja brought the best of three continents to basketball. Born in Lagos, Nigeria, he moved with his family to Berlin, Germany, as a child. Okulaja later starred for the famed University of North Carolina Tar Heels in college before embarking on a successful professional basketball career in Europe, mostly in Spain and Germany.
"Ademola Okulaja represented everything good about our sport as a true competitor on the court and an even finer gentleman off it, and we cannot be sadder to hear that he is gone," Euroleague Basketball CEO Jordi Bertomeu stated. "On behalf of everyone at Euroleague Basketball, we offer our deepest condolences to his loved ones. May his memory serve as a blessing to them at this difficult time."
The big man led North Carolina to a pair of Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament championships and was the ACC player of the year in 1998-99, the last of his four seasons there. Okulaja returned home to begin his professional career with ALBA Berlin. He would later play for FC Barcelona, Unicaja Malaga and Brose Bamberg in the EuroLeague, as well for Valencia Basket and Khimki Moscow Region in the EuroCup. A long-time member of the German national team, he was a member of the squad that captured the bronze medal at the 2002 Basketball World Cup in the United States.
A former EuroLeague standout and a friend to Euroleague Basketball since he stopped playing in 2009 due to a cancer diagnosis, Mr. Okulaja participated as an ambassador in that season's Final Four in his hometown of Berlin. He later studied in the Euroleague Basketball Institute's master’s program and participated in a EuroLeague Originals documentary, Table Talk: Athletes' Retirement, released in early 2020. At that time, Mr. Okulaja was the CEO of his own management and consulting agency, Pro4Pros, but he also worked as a television analyst and a player agent.