By Ene Onoja
Masai Ujiri has suddenly become a hot topic on Twitter followingToronto Raptors’ historic victory.
As Raptors’ president of basketball operations, Ujiri’s contributions to the franchise have come off the court.
Raptors beat the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors 114-110 in Oakland to win the NBA Championship in six games, becoming the first team outside the United States to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
The Raptors accomplished this in their 24th year of existence, becoming the first team since the Blue Jays in 1993 to bring a major North American championship to the city and to the country.
Here are four things to know about Ujiri.
1. Born in Nigeria and chose basketball Over football
Ujiri was born on July 7, 1970, in Zaria, Nigeria, a city in northern Nigeria. His mother was a doctor and his father was a hospital administrator and educator. Ujiri spent his childhood living in both Zaria and London, England.
2. Ujiri played College Ball in North Dakota and Montana
Ujiri first came to America to attend prep school in Seattle, Washington. In 1993 he moved to North Dakota to play basketball for Bismarck State College. In his first season with the team, they went 23-8 and averaged 12.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists.
After two years in North Dakota, Ujiri transferred to Montana State University-Billings but only stayed for a semester before heading to Europe to play professionally. In 6 years, Ujiri played in Belgium, Germany, England, Greece and Finland. He retired in 2002.
3. After playing in Europe, Ujiri began Youth Basketball Programs in Africa
After retiring in 2002, Ujiri became a youth coach in Nigeria. One year later he helped start the Giants of Africa Foundation, a basketball camp that’s goal was to help promising young Africans further both their careers and their education.
4. Ujiri Got His Start in the NBA Working as a Freelance Scout for the Magic
Ujiri started on his path to the NBA in 2003 when he introduced himself to long-time NBA scout and trainer David Thorpe at a summer league game in Boston. Thorpe was immediately impressed with “this guy with a British accent and ‘Kid ‘n Play’ fade” and when they re-connected nearly a year later, Thorpe told Ujiri to meet him at the 2003 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in Atlanta, where he would introduce him to some coaches. Through those introductions Ujiri landed a freelance scouting gig with the Orlando Magic, scouting European players. A year later he landed a full-time job with the Nuggets, where he stayed for four years, scouting players around the world.