12 August 2019
Masai Ujiri, the president of the current National Basketball Association (NBA) champions Toronto Raptors, took the trophy to the town where he grew up, Zaria, in Kaduna State, Nigeria.
Ujiri, who was NBA Executive of the Year in 2013 when he was with Denver Nuggets, tweeted about his excitement over his return to Zaria.
Ujiri was born in Bournemouth, England to a Nigerian father and Kenyan mother, and grew up in Zaria. He went back to the basketball court in front of Amina Hall, at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), where he first played the game as a teenager before moving to the US for high school and college. That court produced some “legends” on floodlit nights that included “TJ” Tijani Umar, “Computer” Nnaji and Musa Kida, who played for the Nigerian national team in the 1980s and 1990s.
Ujiri played professionally in Europe, but only started to make a mark in the game on the management side when his playing career ended in 2002. From scouting for Orlando Magic, he moved to the Nuggets first as a scout. He then moved to the Raptors and rose to assistant general manager, before returning to the Nuggets as general manager in 2008. He went back to the Raptors in 2013 on a five-year $15m deal.
Ujiri is also the director of the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders Africa programme.