Masai Ujiri in 2014
July 7, 1970|
|Listed height||6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)|
|Career highlights and awards|
Masai Ujiri (born 7 July 1970) is a Nigerian professional basketball executive, former scout and former player, currently serving as the president of the Toronto Raptors in the National Basketball Association (NBA).
He grew up in Zaria, Nigeria, born of Isoko father from Aviara in Delta state. The mother however is a Kenyan, a Kamba to be specific, from Machakos. The son of a doctor mother and a hospital administrator/nursing educationist father, Ujiri originally played football as a youth before focusing on basketball. His interest with basketball started as a 13-year-old playing with friends on outdoor basketball courts in northern Nigeria. This interest would be fed by American sports magazines and VHS tapes of NBA games or basketball movies. He admired Hakeem Olajuwon, an NBA star who was also born in Nigeria.
Ujiri emigrated to the United States to play two years of basketball at Bismarck State College, then transferred to Montana State University Billings, though he left the latter school after one semester. He spent six years playing professionally in Europe. After ending a professional playing career in 2002, Ujiri worked as a youth coach in Nigeria. During an NBA summer league game in Boston, he met David Thorpe, who eventually introduced him to college coaches. In 2002, Ujiri was accompanying a young Nigerian player to a draft tryout in Orlando when he impressed Magic scouting director Gary Brokaw, who then introduced Ujiri to coach Doc Rivers and GM John Gabriel. Ujiri then became an unpaid scout for the NBA's Orlando Magic, paying his own way when he had to and sharing rooms with scouts or players when he could.
Jeff Weltman, then a young executive with the Denver Nuggets, introduced Ujiri to Nuggets general manager Kiki Vandeweghe, who then hired Ujiri on salary as an international scout. After four seasons there, he was hired away by Bryan Colangelo of the Toronto Raptors as their Director of Global Scouting. Ujiri became the Raptors' assistant general manager in 2008, and returned to the Nuggets in 2010, when he accepted his position as executive vice president in charge of basketball operations. On May 31, 2013, Ujiri signed a 5-year, $15 million deal to become GM of the Toronto Raptors. In 2013, he was named the NBA Executive of the Year, the only non-American ever to win the award. On September 2, 2016 the Toronto Raptors extended Ujiri's contract as the team's president.
Ujiri has also been the director of the NBA's Basketball Without Borders Africa program, which promotes basketball throughout the continent. He also conducts two camps, one for the top 50 players of Nigeria, which is sponsored by Nestle Milo, and another for African big men, which Ujiri sponsors himself with help from Nike.
Ujiri has taken personal offense to President Donald Trump's alleged comments about immigrants from places like Haiti and his homeland Nigeria, which Trump allegedly referred to as "shitholes". He noted that he didn't see how what President Trump said would be considered inspiring leadership, as well as it being unfair to those places and people that are there wanting to improve their life situations.
When describing his own leadership style, Ujiri stated that he does not micromanage, and instead places a large emphasis on being personal – he wants to "treat people like they want to be treated,". Ujiri reflects on past mistakes and attempts to improve upon how he treats people every day. He believes that "a leadership role [is] about finding that balance between being aggressive, fierce and competitive, and treating people well,".
- Woody Paige. "Ujiri in Nuggets' jungle". Denver Post. August 28, 2010. Retrieved on October 14, 2010.
- Ian Harrison. "Masai Ujiri takes reins in Denver". Sports Magazine. September 3, 2010. Retrieved on October 14, 2010.
- "Masai Ujiri, a Nigerian, is Denver Nuggets new Executive VP". Nigerian Inquirer. 2010. Retrieved on October 14, 2010.
- "Nuggets hire Masai Ujiri as new GM". Associated Press. ESPN. August 31, 2010. Retrieved on October 14, 2010.
- Masai Ujiri joining Raptors
- Nuggets' Ujiri collects Executive of the Year honors
- Royce Young. "Denver hires Masai Ujiri as GM, but who is he?" CBS Sports. August 26, 2010. Retrieved on October 14, 2010.
- "Masai Ujiri building on hope with Giants of Africa: Arthur". Toronto Star, September 2, 2016.