The Washington Wizards were reportedly willing to empty the Brinks truck to acquire Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri, but the highly-regarded executive turned down an offer of $10 million annually to stay north of the border.
You can’t blame Washington for trying. After pulling off the Kawhi Leonard blockbuster that vaulted Toronto from a consistent playoff disappointment to an NBA champion, it’s worth at least trying to acquire the mastermind behind a rare all-or-nothing success.
As Ujiri stated, his reasons for staying with the Raptors go far beyond basketball itself.
“For me it's always been about Toronto,” he claimed in June. “I love it here. My family loves it here. My wife loves it here, which is important. My kids are Canadian. I want to win more... In my mind, I'm here.”
However, someone who disagrees with Ujiri is outspoken ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith, who voiced his opinion on the “Bill Simmons Podcast.”
“I think Masai made a mistake,” Smith stated. “I believe he should have taken a shot and gone to the nation’s capital to take over the Washington Wizards. I truly believe that… You have nowhere to go but down in Toronto...
“To me, once you do all of that, you throw all your chips on the table and you cash in with a championship, you move on.”
If Smith wants to believe that, he’s totally allowed to. However, after bringing a title to Toronto, Ujiri sits on a very high pedestal. Knowing how committed he is to making the Raptors a success, it’s hard to imagine him not doing everything within his powers to keep the club competitive. Additionally, it would take a pretty drastic change for him to lose the faith and support of the fanbase.
Sure, his job gets more difficult with the departure of Leonard, but the Raptors should still challenge for home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference next year.
Smith could also be nervous that Toronto’s chances of winning another title in the future look a whole lot better with Ujiri at the helm. We already know how he feels about having a champion from Canada.
So while the ESPN personality may be upset that the successful executive didn’t bolt to the United States, that doesn’t change the fact that Ujiri is still a member of the Raptors organization - and an NBA champion.
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