Masai Ujiri Interview in Africa
Old 08-23-2013, 03:04 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Raptors Masai Ujiri Interview in Africa

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M asai Ujiri, President & General Manager, Basketball Operations at the Toronto Raptors joined Hakeem Olajuwon on The Dreamís visit to South Africa last weekend. The first African GM in the NBA spoke about his recent move from Denver to Toronto, his friendship with Hakeem Olajuwon, attending the 2013 FIBA Afrobasket and coming back to Johannesburg next week for the 11th annual Basketball Without Borders Africa camp.
Pawel Weszka, NBA Africa: First of all, congratulations on your 2013 NBA Executive of the Year Award. It was an incredible journey for you last season and it hasnít stopped. What does this recognition mean to you?

Masai Ujiri: I think itís a team sport. I worked with Josh Kroenke [President and Governor, Denver Nuggets] and Pete DíAlessandro [former Assistant General Manager, Denver Nuggets] and it was a team effort. I know that there are probably 10 other GMís who could have won it. Itís not a recognition awarded by the media, but by other GMís and it makes me feel good that other GMís would consider me for that award that year. For me itís about the team and how well the team did.

The NBA is about the players and the coaches and I appreciate where I am. With the new position, it was tough leaving Denver, but I am now facing a new opportunity and Iím excited about it. Itís going to take a while to build [a team], but thatís a challenge of the job.
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Does being named the top General Manager in the NBA last season change anything in your approach to your profession? You have done it before, are you confident you are going to do it again?

This is a more difficult and more challenging job for sure. The Raptors are a more followed team, a very good franchise with great owners and I have a great President in Tim Leiweke. I am grateful for the opportunity heís given me. Basketball is my life and the only thing I know and the challenges will always be there, but they just make you want to work more.

There is no job thatís going to be open and easy. If that was an easy job, there would be somebody there. But Iím excited Ė you take it to another gear and you have to think every night how to make your team better. It also takes some education, but Iím excited about Toronto Ė the people, the fans and the organization.
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Tell me about your transition from Denver to Toronto? With the NBA Summer League, free agency and now Afrobasket, the last few weeks must have been very intense.

Itís been sort of a whirlwind. When you think about it, you even move from one place to the other, and even though itís another NBA team, there are just so many things on your mind. And then thereís basketball. You have to manage it all. When I got the job there was the draft, free agency, NBA Summer League, new staff, old staff Ė the challenges were all around, [it was] unbelievable. But itís our job, thatís what we do, and thatís the exciting part of it. You try to have good people around you, you have an eye there and you get good eyes to watch for you, people that you rely on and that work hard.

Itís been a big transition. But when I left Toronto to go to Denver, that was also a big challenge at the time. So I can say that for me itís work. You look forward to it and you look forward to a good challenge.

Going back to Toronto, is it like going back home for you? You know the people, you know the city and you have been familiar with the environment. What did it feel like when you went back?

The following of the fans has been awesome. I love it Ė I love the passion of the city for the game, the passion of the country. We always forget that the Raptors are Canadaís team Ė one team, one country. Itís big. We appreciate that and itís great to try to grow something where we can give the fans and the people what they hope for.
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You have just spent a weekend with NBA Legend Hakeem Olajuwon in South Africa. Can you share more about this experience?

Having him here was unbelievable. Heís such a great man and great personality. Heís always very calm, always in control. To share the ĎUnited 4 Mandelaí weekend with Hakeem [Olajuwon], Amadou [Gallo Fall] was fantastic. It just continues to pile on, the unbelievable experiences that I have had on the continent while trying to help grow the game and give back.

Iím excited about Hakeem coming back and doing more. Iíve worked with him a lot throughout the last couple of years and weíve become good friends. Itís been a blessing to know a legend like that, somebody who is so humble, but gives so much to the game. Itís very unfortunate that Hakeem came in a different era. I almost wish he came in this era with the whole social media following basketball and how David Stern and Adam [Silver] have developed the game globally opening the NBA office in Africa with Amadou leading here.

Itís unbelievable. I wish Hakeem, Dikembe and these guys played in this era, but weíll get there. Iím glad that there is more following in Africa now that these guys come out more. Players are going to study history. There is something great that Hakeem did and his career will be studied by all the young kids here. I think we all continue to do everything we can to help grow the game in Africa.




NBA.com: Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri Returns to South Africa, Talks Raptors, Basketball Without Borders and More
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Old 08-23-2013, 09:49 PM   #2 (permalink)
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interesting to see his relation with hakeem, I wonder if he's the big man coach rumoured earlier this summer.
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