Adegboyega Ayodele Jr. began every morning with consistency and discipline, often rising before the sun to focus his mind and exercise his body in service of a lifelong commitment to athletics. Far from being a solitary creature, the youngest son of Chief and Mrs Gbolahan Ayodele spent his time on earth building and supporting teams -- whether those on the field of sport, in his promising professional career, or those in his global community,
Born in Lagos on December 15, 1988, and raised between Nigeria, England, and the United States, Adegboyega, known as Ade, or “Junior”, passed away June 23 2020 from colon cancer. He is the youngest of four siblings, JG, Ayo and the late Debola Ayodele. Even though he was the last born, it was a running joke within the family that Junior was the last “first” born. He consistently demonstrated a commitment to group leadership that seemed more befitting an eldest child. He made sure everyone in his orbit felt secure, supported, and connected to one another -- often going above and beyond to spend quality time with his immediate and extended clan. He was a diplomatic personality on the Ayodele team, a kind listener who could easily broker solutions to conflict with precocious wisdom and infectious good cheer. His fiancé, Bria Bell, says Junior “took pride in making everyone he encountered feel valued and loved.”
His skills as a team leader were developed on the actual playing field. He adopted his natural athletic talents to a remarkable career in a number of sports, including swimming, track, and rugby. As a student athlete at the University of North Carolina, he created standout moments in rugby, representing UNC in national tournaments, and scoring the winning try in a televised game against Army.
After graduating in 2011, he spent his professional career at the National Basketball Association, where he started with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and was a rising star in partnership management and business development for the Charlotte Hornets. Fred Whitfield, President of Hornets Basketball, said "he was the best teammate and we loved him." Selfless and loyal, he once gave up his personal hotel room during the NBA all star weekend to accommodate a stranded Roy Williams, the legendary UNC head coach, who later welcomed him as a mentee. NBA colleagues remember him as a consummate bridge builder, generous with connections and eager to link the United States to his home continent in the shared ambition to make basketball a global sport. “He made a huge impression on the NBA Africa team,” says NBA Africa director Amadou Fall. “We are grateful every day for his hard work and his example.”
His generous spirit and easy charm was evident even as a boarding student at the Ashville College school in Harrogate, England. Then, he was quiet but confident, a house captain and leader respected for being exceptionally polite and kind to all. He grew to become a curious global citizen -- eager and willing to explore the world through travel and express himself through his always on-trend fashion. Friends throughout life, from boarding school to his college fraternity, Alpha Kappa Psi, note how well he was grounded in the Nigerian culture and values that made him who he was. Says Jimi Adesanya, a longtime friend, “In a single long conversation with Ade, you would know who his family was and what it meant to him.”
Junior loved the hard won and everlasting relationships that sports afforded him, and was conscious that the opportunity to grow through teamwork was not easily available to all. His long term wish was to transform African sports by building and scaling youth sporting academies touching the underserved. Fulfilling this dream, says his brother JG, “would be a way for him to create a sustainable ripple effect in a community he cared about.” The focus, consistency and warmth he brought to all aspects of his personal and professional life would surely have carried this dream to success. His talents, humility and motivation created a strong legacy for the loved ones he leaves behind.
Cancer research is important to our family because we know, someday, cancer will be a disease of the past. We have chosen to designate donations to the V Foundation for Cancer Research because Ade embodied the same spirit as Jim Valvano to "Don't Give Up ... Don't Ever Give Up!"®
We will never give up in the fight against cancer. Thank you for standing beside us, for remembering Ade and for considering a gift to the V Foundation in Ade's memory.