Masai Ujiri

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Masai Ujiri
Masai Ujiri in 2014 2014-08-20 01-08.jpg
Masai Ujiri in 2014
Toronto Raptors
Position President of basketball operations
League NBA
Personal information
Born (1970-07-07) July 7, 1970 (age 47)
Zaria, Nigeria
Nationality Nigerian
Listed height 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)
Career information
College
Playing career 1996–2002
Position Guard
Career highlights and awards
As executive

Masai Ujiri (born 7 July 1970) is a Nigerian-American professional basketball executive, former scout and former player, currently serving as the president of the Toronto Raptors in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Early life[edit]

He grew up in Zaria, Nigeria. 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.[1] He admired Hakeem Olajuwon, an NBA star who was also born in Nigeria.

Career[edit]

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.[2] After ending a professional playing career in 2002, Ujiri worked as a youth coach in Nigeria.[3] During an NBA summer league game in Boston, he met David Thorpe, who eventually introduced him to college coaches.[4] 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.[1]

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,[4] and returned to the Nuggets in 2010, when he accepted his position as executive vice president in charge of basketball operations.[2][5][6] In 2013, he was named the NBA Executive of the Year, the only non-American ever to win the award.[7] On May 31, 2013, Ujiri signed a 5-year, $15 million deal to become GM of the Toronto Raptors.[8]

Ujiri has also been the director of the NBA's Basketball Without Borders Africa program, which promotes basketball throughout the continent.[9] 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.[1] On September 2, 2016 the Toronto Raptors extended Ujiri's contract as the team's president.[10]

Ujiri and Basketball Without Borders are profiled in Hubert Davis's 2016 documentary film Giants of Africa.[11]

References[edit]