People

Masai Ujiri

Business of Basketball
QUICK FACTS

NAME
Masai Ujiri

OCCUPATION
Sports Executive

DATE of BIRTH
January 1st, 1970

EDUCATION
Bismarck State College

PLACE OF BIRTH
Zaria, Kaduna

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Ujiri was born on January 1, 1970 in Zaria, Nigeria to a hospital administrator/nurse educationist father and a doctor mother.  As a child, Ujiri was firstly interested in soccer before he fell in love with the game of basketball.  Around the age of 13, Ujiri was introduced to the game of basketball and his interest in basketball was further fueled by sports magazines purchased by his mother, VHS tapes of National Basketball Association (NBA) games and basketball based movies.  Ujiri admired Hakeem Olajuwon, a Nigerian-born two-time World Champion NBA player.

Background

Ujiri completed his Prep school in Seattle and attended Junior College in North Dakota, where he played basketball for two years at Bismarck State College. From there, he transferred to Montana State University-Billings.

Ujiri’s basketball career began in Europe when he played professionally for 6 years.  After his playing career ended in 2002, he returned to Nigeria where he began coaching youths.  While working as a youth coach, Ujiri desired being a scout in the NBA who could scout and help develop neglected “talent” all over Africa.  Armed with this desire, Ujiri took the bull by the horns and without pay began to attend games in US and other countries to study players, meet with coaches and Team Administrators.  The commitment and step of faith would soon pay off,  during a particular NBA summer league game in Boston, Ujiri met with David Thorpe, who introduced him to college coaches.  Ujiri also impressed the scouting director of the Orlando Magic team when he accompanied a young Nigerian to a draft tryout.  Ujiri was offered a unpaid scouting position with the team.  He did excellent with the position and he was hired by the General Manager of the Denver Nuggets as the international scout for the Nuggets.

Ujiri’s next stop was with the Toronto Raptors as the Director of Global Scouting after four years with the Nuggets.  In this capacity, Ujiri scouted for talents internationally across Africa, Europe, Asia, and South America.  In 2008, Ujiri was promoted to the position of the Assistant General Manager.  In 2010, He returned to the Nuggets when he accepted the position of the Executive Vice President in charge of basketball operations.  In 2013, Ujiri signed a 5-year contract with the Toronto Raptors to become their General Manager, in the same year, he was also named the NBA Executive of the Year.  The first non-American to win this award.

Ujiri’s tireless love for the game of basketball is evident in his efforts to promote and develop the game of basketball throughout Africa.  Ujiri is the founder of the Giants of Africa Foundation, which launched two basketball camps in Nigeria.  Ujiri has also  served as the Director of the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program in Africa since 2002.

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