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Former German basketball star Christian Welp dies aged 51

German basketball icon Christian Welp has died of a heart attack aged just 51. After he came back to Europe in 1990, the University of Washington standout helped Germany win their biggest title ever in basketball.

One of Germany's most celebrated basketballers of the late 80s and early 90s, Christian Welp, has died of a heart attack. The news was announced on the webpage of his former college team, University of Washington.

Born in the German town of Delmenhorst, Welp became the university's highest scorer ever before being selected as the 16th overall pick of the 1987 NBA Draft by Philadelphia.

"This is an extremely sad loss," said Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar on the Huskies website. "Christian is one of the most outstanding student-athletes to have ever played at Washington."

"He was not only a great guy but he was a great role model and father and we will miss him dearly," he added.

Welp was one of the first German players to make it to the NBA, playing for three seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers, San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors. He then returned to Europe to play with teams in Germany, Greece and Italy.

His most notable achievement though was helping Germany to their first and only win at a European Championships in 1993. In the final against Russia, Welp scored the deciding points to help his German team to the title. He was also voted player of the tournament.

al/asz (dpa, SID)