Masai Ujiri is in his seventh season as President of the Toronto Raptors, leading the team to the most successful period in franchise history, including a NBA Championship. In June, the Raptors won the first NBA title in the franchise's 24-year history with a six-game victory over Golden State. In his six years leading the team, the club has won five Atlantic Division titles, made its first appearance in the Eastern Conference finals, set a team record for victories in a season with 59, and complied a 321-171 (.652) regular season mark.
Ujiri is considered one of the more proactive executives in the NBA. Whether through trades, shrewd draft picks, scouting, or analytics, Ujiri is always considering ways to move his team forward. He was named President and General Manager, Basketball Operations of the Raptors on May 31, 2013, returning to an organization where he earned his first front office position in 2007. On Sept. 2, 2016, Ujiri signed a long-term contract extension as team president to continue to oversee all facets of basketball operations.
Ujiri returned to Toronto from Denver, where he spent three years as Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Denver Nuggets, and became the first African-born general manager of an NBA team. It was his second stint with the Colorado club, after working as a scout from 2003-06 and the team’s director of international scouting during the 2006-07 season.
Ujiri was named 2012-13 NBA Executive of the Year after he led the Nuggets to a team-record 57 wins and a league-best 38-3 home court mark. Ujiri helped construct a young, athletic roster that captured the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference despite being the third-youngest team at the start of the season. In Denver, Ujiri is best known for a 12-player deal Feb. 22, 2011 that sent All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks. That trade is heralded as a textbook example on how to receive high value in exchange for a pending free agent.
When Ujiri returned to the Raptors in 2013, he inherited a team that had not been to the postseason since 2008. Under his leadership in the 2013-14 season, the club posted 48 wins, won an Atlantic Division title and earned the third seed in the Eastern Conference. Following a slow start to the 2013-14 campaign, Ujiri executed a seven-player trade with Sacramento on Dec. 9 that brought valuable bench depth in Chuck Hayes, Patterson, John Salmons and Vasquez to Toronto. From that point forward the Raptors posted the best record in the Eastern Conference at 41-22.
Heading into the 2014-15 campaign, Ujiri managed to retain three key contributors re-signing free agents Patrick Patterson, Greivis Vasquez and starting point guard Kyle Lowry, as well as adding more depth off the bench with the acquisitions of veterans James Johnson and Lou Williams. The Raptors won a second consecutive Atlantic Division championship and recorded a then-club record 49 victories.
The success of the 2015-16 season, which saw the team finish 56-26, win an Atlantic Division title and make their first appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals, came from Ujiri reshaping the roster to return to a more defensive-minded focus with the signing of free agents Bismack Biyombo, DeMarre Carroll, Canadian Cory Joseph and veteran Luis Scola.
In the 2016 offseason, Ujiri re-signed DeMar DeRozan to a multi-year contract extension. The 2016-17 season also saw Ujiri acquire forwards Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker to add defensive skills and veteran leadership to the roster, which finished the season with a 51-31 regular season record.
The 2017-18 season saw the team reach a franchise-record 59 wins, and win another Atlantic Division title. In July 2018, Ujiri acquired all-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard and defensive specialist Danny Green in return for All Star DeRozan and Jakob Poetl, and hired head coach Nick Nurse. At the 2018-19 trade deadline, he engineered another transformative deal, sending Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright and C.J. Miles to Memphis in return for All Star centre Marc Gasol. The 2018-19 version of Ujiri’s team reached 58 wins and captured the NBA title for the first time in franchise history.
Ujiri got his NBA front office start in Toronto in 2007 when he joined the franchise as director of global scouting. He was elevated to assistant general manager, player personnel in 2008. His duties included overseeing the scouting and personnel departments, talent assessment and related data management. His first NBA role was as an international scout with the Orlando Magic.
A native of Nigeria, Ujiri brings tremendous knowledge and extensive global connections to the Raptors front office. He played professionally in Europe for six years, with stops in Belgium, Germany, England, Greece and Finland. He has scouted all over the world, including Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. Ujiri has also managed and coached the Nigerian junior and senior national teams.
On a personal level, Ujiri has been tireless in his efforts to promote and develop the game of basketball throughout Africa. He is the founder of the Giants of Africa Foundation, which urges young people to “Dream Big,” and uses basketball to educate and enrich the lives of youth, and create opportunities for them on and off the court. Since 2002, Ujiri has also served as the director of the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program.
The summer of 2018 marked 15 years of Giants of Africa. Camps were held in Rwanda, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Senegal. In July, Ujiri and former U.S. President Barack Obama opened the Giants of Africa court at the Sauti Kuu Foundation Sports, Resource and Vocational Training Centre, in Alego, Kenya. The foundation works to help young people become mentally, socially and financially self-reliant, and the court is a visible example of how sport can empower youth.
Ujiri was introduced to basketball at age 13 and quickly fell in love with the game. He went on to play at Bismarck State College and Montana State University-Billings (formerly Eastern Montana College).
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