Masai Ujiri Rumors
The decision to sign a multi-year extension with the Toronto Raptors was an easy one for Masai Ujiri. Coming off of the franchise’s most successful season ever certainly helped. But the city itself made the choice to stay put a no-brainer for the club’s president. “I love it here. I really do. Toronto is home for me,” Ujiri said in an interview this week at his office overlooking the courts at the Raptors’ training facility. “We don’t go to another home in the States or somewhere else. This is our home. And I love the organization, I think they’ve treated me well. They’ve given it their all. It’s humbling for me for them to come to me and say: ‘Hey, let’s do this.’ And then the city, the fans, everybody — what else can you ask for?”
The Toronto Raptors announced Friday they have signed President Masai Ujiri to a multi-year contract extension and promoted Jeff Weltman to general manager and Bobby Webster to assistant general manager/vice-president basketball strategy. Ujiri will continue to oversee basketball operations as president of the club. “I am grateful to the Board and Mr. Tanenbaum for the opportunity to continue our progress to build the Raptors into one of the top franchises in the NBA,” said Ujiri. “I’m also excited that Jeff and Bobby are being rewarded for their hard work and valuable contributions to our program. My family thanks the NBA, Raptors players and coaches, staff, Raptors fans, the city of Toronto and Canada for this opportunity. Toronto is home for us.”
Sources said that the Raptors and Ujiri are nearing agreement on a lucrative new deal that will keep the 46-year-old in Canada for the foreseeable future, even though he still has nearly two years left on the original five-year, $15 million pact he signed with Toronto in May 2013.
The Nigerian Basketball Federation came calling two springs ago, soon after Will finished a year-long gig with the Shanxi Dragons of the Chinese Basketball Association. Among the dozens of players to come and go through Bakersfield were two Nigerian-Americans—6′ 9″ former NBA lottery pick Ike Diogu, and 6′ 11″ Alade Aminu, whose 6′ 9″ younger brother and former Georgia Tech teammate Al-Farouq Aminu is now an emerging star with the Portland Trail Blazers. They both went to the federation to vouch for Will. So did Ujiri, who from watching him work camps knew, as Will puts it, “I wasn’t a totally random white dude.” In May 2015 he assembled D’Tigers, as the team is known back home, only weeks before the AfroBasket in Tunisia, making sure the players sang the Nigerian anthem at their first practice and every one thereafter. “Our goal was to sing it on the podium,” Will says. “In the past it’s been an issue that so many players are based in America, so it was important for the guys to know who they were playing for.”
But even before then, Voigt became friends with Masai Ujiri, the Nigerian-born general manager of the Toronto Raptors. When Ujiri began setting up basketball camps in his native country, Voigt was one of the first volunteers. He worked camps in Xaria, Abuja and Lagos and impressed Ujiri by venturing to smaller cities hours away on his off days. “A lot of people ask a hundred questions,” Ujiri said, “which you’re supposed to do.” Voigt didn’t. “Will was just, like, ‘Let’s go,’” he said. “He’s one of those explorer types.”