Masai Ujiri said he would win in Toronto, and then he won in Toronto. Despite the doubters and the haters, the Raptors president stuck to a task he fully believed in and along with a front office, coaching staff and players who followed suit, delivered Canada its first NBA championship this summer.
He’s since moved on to his other undying mission, helping the game of basketball grow in Africa with the Basketball Without Borders program. On Wednesday, he took some time out of his busy schedule to discuss both his biggest passions with Citizen TV Kenya and how he’s able to consistently deliver the goods.
“I don’t feel pressure,” Ujiri said. “I think somebody said pressure is a privilege. If anybody is putting pressure on you, we are putting pressure on you to perform and — in sports — to me, you should be able to perform at a high level. Sports is about winning.
“I see it as an unbelievable challenge and platform for us to show ourselves, for us to show who we are. And that challenge of people always saying, ‘Oh, it’s the only team outside the United States, they can never win, it’s Canada,’ for me, it’s pride. You try to be humble, but honestly, inside me I’m like, ‘Yeah, I want to kick your ass.’”
Ujiri revealed that winning the title hasn’t even fully sunk in for him because of how packed his schedule has been but that it does indeed feel good.
Born in England after his parents first met as nursing students in Bournemouth before moving back to Nigeria a few months after he arrived, Ujiri’s journey to being an NBA champion is nothing short of remarkable after working as an unpaid scout in Orlando before moving on to Denver and then Toronto.
His parents are in Lagos currently, and Ujiri also revealed on the show that it was a special moment for him to take the Larry O’B to his parents there.
Masai Ujiri on his Kenyan-Nigerian heritage: My parents met in England while studying nursing. That is where I was https://t.co/GVH7cTHbV1 mum is from Machakos and she liked the name Masai. That is how I was named#JKLive— Citizen TV Kenya (@citizentvkenya) August 14, 2019
Speaking specifically about the game in Africa, Ujiri admitted that another goal of his is to have an NBA team he’s in charge of play a game in the continent, preferably in either his mother’s Kenya or his father’s Nigeria.
“There are no arenas to play any NBA game of standard,” Ujiri said when asked about why that’s not possible now. “How is that possible? It’s not possible, it’s not possible this happens because we can bring so much...
“On this continent, everybody is chosen and they have something special about them and they just have to find it. I am blessed that I found me.”
Safe to surmise, the Raptors are pretty thrilled to have found him, too.
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