Christian Welp (GER)
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Germany hero Welp dies at 51

MUNICH (DBB) - The world basketball community is mourning the loss of one of Germany's greatest talents, EuroBasket 1993 MVP Christian Welp.

One of the most emblematic players in the nation's history, Welp died from a heart attack.

He was 51.

The 2.13m center had 106 international caps but will be forever remembered as one of the key players to to deliver Germany their only gold medal in a major tournament.

Welp made his debut with Germany at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 but after being drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1987, he wasn't able to put on the national team shirt because of regulations at the time.

NBA players were professionals and international competitions were only open to participation by amateur players, meaning those playing in leagues in the rest of the world.

The rules eventually changed to allow pros to compete in international tournaments, with the 1992 Barcelona Olympics the first event for them to do so.

Welp, who had returned to Europe to play for Bayer Leverkusen in 1990, put on the national team shirt again when Germany hosted EuroBasket 1993.

Though expectations were not high that the Germans could go far in the tournament, they did and Welp was at the center of everything they did well.

He poured in a game-high 23 points to lead Germany past Spain, 79-77, in an overtime drama in the Quarter-Finals.

He then scored a team-high 15 points in a Semi-Final triumph over Greece.

In the Final, Germany's dream run was in danger of ending when Russia led them 70-68 with less than five seconds remaining in the title game in Munich.

Welp caught a pass on the baseline and went up strong and scored, while also drawing a foul on the play.

He sank the free-throw for the three-point play that put Germany in front.

Germany then won after Russia missed with desperation three-point heave from half-court.

Welp's death has hit everyone hard in German basketball, including his former national team coach in 1993, Svetislav Pesic.

I am shocked and very sad - Pesic

"His merits for German basketball are indescribable, he had led us to the European title," Pesic said.

"I have already spoken with several players from that EuroBasket team. We are all very, very sad."

Welp played for the national team until his retirement from action in 1999.

After parting ways with Leverkusen in 1996, he also played for Alba Berlin, Olympiacos and Viola Reggio Calabria in Italy.

He made a transition into coaching, serving Germany as an assistant coach.

Welp was part of Dirk Bauermann's coaching staff when they made it to the Final of EuroBasket 2005 in Belgrade.

Welp's NBA career lasted from 1987 until 1990 as he suffered a knee injury early in his rookie season with Philadelphia and suited up in just 10 games.

He was traded to San Antonio Spurs the following year before spending a season at Golden State Warriors.

Welp played in a 109 games in his three-year NBA career, averaging 3.3 points and 2.4 rebounds.

He remains the all-time leading scorer of the Washington Huskies in American college basketball.

Germany's Detlef Schrempf was a teammate of Welp's at Washington.