Paulding is coming back, but...: Oldenburg says goodbye to its icon

Former teammates travel from all over Europe to pay tribute to Rickey Paulding.

Paulding is coming back, but...: Oldenburg says goodbye to its icon

Former teammates travel from all over Europe to pay tribute to Rickey Paulding. After 15 years in Oldenburg, the basketball player ended his career and left the city in Lower Saxony. When he says goodbye, he can once again feel why he is always very welcome.

Rickey Paulding struggled for words. "I'm nervous," said the basketball legend at EWE Baskets Oldenburg. The always deeply relaxed American showed emotions when he left. His acceptance speech caused goosebumps. His jersey with the number 23 now hangs under the roof of the hall as the highest award for a basketball player and is no longer awarded. "Thank you very much for 15 wonderful years in Oldenburg," said the longtime captain in one of his few appearances in German. "Thank you for making Oldenburg our home."

Paulding was never a speaker - not even at his farewell game. No indication that he's the second best scorer in the history of the basketball league. No indication that he is among the top pros in all league stats. No indication that the 6523 fans made his farewell game a record crowd for the Baskets. "If you're looking for a player as a club manager and you want a perfect package: Rickey Paulding is it," enthused former Ulm international Per Günther. "Rickey is a big, big role model for all players in the league," added Bayreuth's international Bastian Doreth.

Hardly any other athlete combined Paulding with all the characteristics of a model professional. In a basketball world characterized by constant change, the father of three stayed in one location for 15 years. He has had 117 teammates since 2007. Some came to Pauldingburg from the USA, Norway or Spain for his last appearance in the Baskets jersey.

This is what the Lower Saxon city is now often called. "Paulding has made Oldenburg better known," said Mayor Jürgen Krogmann. For this, the basketball player received the city seal on Sunday, the highest possible award of the city of Oldenburg. "Rickey stands for the city, for the club, for the fans," noted Karsten Tadda, who played with Paulding in Oldenburg between 2017 and 2021.

Next to the arena, a large graffiti shows who has set the tone in recent years. A larger-than-life Baskets star with "Pauldingburg" written on it. "When we came to Oldenburg as opponents and saw this picture, we knew who we were going to meet," said Doreth. No megalomania in northern Germany, just the reality of the past 15 years. With Paulding, the Baskets won the German championship in 2009 and the cup in 2015.

"Rickey impressed everyone with his attitude," said longtime assistant coach Ralph Held. "Whenever we needed points, Rickey was there. He was a leader, not loud, but a role model." Ex-coach Mladen Drijencic also emphasized: "He made all the players better."

Paulding has a deep friendship with Drijencic. When the coach was appointed Baskets coach in spring 2015, he immediately turned to Captain Paulding. "I told him he had to help me. I was only a youth coach before. You're a legend. He did it. Without him I wouldn't have been the EWE Baskets coach for seven years," said a visibly touched Drijencic.

In his laudatory speech, Paulding also singled out Predrag Krunic. The Serbian coach brought him to Oldenburg from the French league in 2007. Two years later they became champions together. "I wouldn't be here without him," Paulding said.

He will live in Kansas City with his wife Kara, his two sons Tre and Sidney, and daughter Marleigh. But Paulding will always come back. As a youth coach, it is planned that he should come to Oldenburg every three months. The great Baskets hope: His values, skills and role model function should be passed on. "You see me again," announced Paulding.