Tributes paid after former world championship basketball player dies aged 52

Image of a basketball on a court.

Image of a basketball on a court. Credit: taka1022/

Tributes have been paid following the death of a former world championship basketball player.

María Pilar Valero Cebrián, aged 52, conquered women’s basketball, notably between 1990 and 1995, playing 106 games in two World Cups, three Europeans, and a Mediterranean Games.

Hailed as the “best player in the history of basketball” by the Aragonese Basketball Federation, she was a member of the women’s team that was proclaimed European champion for the first time in 1993.

The Aragonese athlete died at the age of 52 after a long degenerative illness.

Leading tributes to the former star player, the basketball federation said: “An emblematic player leaves us, with a record full of successes at a collective and individual level. And above all, a great person, who with her eternal smile, humility, and affable character, knew how to win the love and affection of all the people who had the fortune to meet her.”

Basketball club Lobe Huesca La Magia tweeted: “Our deepest condolences to the family and friends. RIP Pilar Valero.”

News of her passing sent shockwaves through the federation, with fans flocking to send their condolences.

One said: “Pilar Valero dies, pioneer of women’s basketball in Aragon

“She is one of the VERY big ones. RIP.”

A second posted: “What sad news… A benchmark in women’s sports and I was lucky enough to enjoy her basketball live. My deepest condolences to his family and loved ones. RIP Pilar Valero.”

Another posted: “Pilar Valero was the prototype of the modern women’s basketball player when women’s basketball was in the caves.

“She was fast, intuitive, with a good shot, she saw impossible spaces, impregnable corridors. And, personally, exceptional. It’s not just basketball, Zaragoza is in mourning.”

A third wrote: “Pilar Valero, Spanish basketball legend, left us yesterday Excellent player and wonderful person.

“She will be remembered for being European champion with the Spanish women’s team in 1993,”

A fourth simply posted: Huge loss. “My condolences to the family. RIP Pilar Valero.”

Pilar’s talent on the court was noticed while studying at Compañía de María de Zaragoza school, where she was spotted and joined Zaragoza Women’s Basketball. 

She made her debut at the age of 18 in the División de Honor in the ranks of Zaragozano, with whom she achieved the greatest success in Aragonese women’s basketball – the 1990 Queen’s Cup.

In 1991 she signed for Dorna Godella, one of the most powerful teams in Europe, with which she won three Leagues, two Queen’s Cups and one European Cup, and one World Club Championship (1993), in addition to playing two other continental finals.

Sadly her health ultimately ended her career after undergoing two back operations.

Despite not playing, she was still seen as an icon in the sport – in February 2011 she was decorated by the Government of Aragon with the medal for Sports Merit, and in 2012 she was assistant coach to Víctor Lapeña in the U17 Women’s National Team that won the silver medal at the World Cup in Holland that year.

Sadly, declining health meant that in 2021 she could not attend the Spanish Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony, along with her teammates from the 1993 women’s team, according to the FEB.

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Vickie S
Written by

Vickie Scullard

A journalist of more than 12 years from Manchester, UK, Vickie now lives in Madrid and works as a news writer for the Euro Weekly News.