Masai Ujiri is the President of Basketball Operations and Vice-Chairman of the 2019 National Basketball Association (NBA) champions, the Toronto Raptors.

According to US Magazine Forbes, the NBA sports franchise is valued at $2.15 billion (Ksh236.87 billion).

While former President Barack Obama heads the list of prominent persons abroad with Kenyan roots, little is known of Masai, a senior NBA executive with Kenyan origin.

The 6 ft 5, NBA exec was born in Bournemouth, England, where his parents were attending school at the time.

He would later move back to Nigeria with his parents at the age of two, where they lived around the Zaria area.

Masai's father, Michael Ujiri hails from the Isoko community which inhabits the Aviara area in Delta State, Nigeria.

He is a hospital administrator and nursing educator by profession.

His mother, Paula Grace, is a Kenyan from the Kamba Community in Machakos, Eastern Kenya. She is a doctor by profession.

Masai visited Kenya in 2016 with the aim of getting in touch with his Kenyan relatives and understanding his other's home.

“My mother is from Machakos, it’s something many people don’t know,” he said during his 2016 visit to Kenya.

At the time, he revealed that, though he was not born in Kenya, his name and his sister's, gave them a strong connection to the country.

His sister is called, Nthenya Ujiri. Her first name is of Kamba origin.


Career

Masai played High School basketball for Nathan Hale in Seattle, Washington, and later proceeded to play for colleges Bismark State and Montana State Billings between 1993 and 1995.

He became a scout in 2002, first for the Orlando Magic and then the Denver Nuggets. In 2008, he joined the backroom staff of the Toronto Raptors.

He returned to the Nuggets in 2010 as general manager and executive vice president of basketball operations and helped turn the team's fortunes around, returning them to the playoffs.

The following season, Ujiri returned to the Raptors as general manager. In the summer of 2016, Masai relinquished his title as general manager to Jeff Weltman and accepted the position of president of basketball operations.

Awards

He was named the NBA Executive of the Year in 2013 after turning around the Nuggets' fortunes.

In 2019, under his stewardship, the Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors in six games of the 2019 NBA finals to become champions.

Philanthropy

Masai was a guest on Citizen TV's JKLive on September 15, 2021, where he detailed his philanthropic work.

Due to his love for Africa, He is set to built 100 basketball courts across various countries in the continent.

The project will begin in Kenya, with one court being constructed in Korogocho, Nairobi, and the other in Samburu.


File Image of Jeff Koinange and Masai 

Show Host Jeff Koinange and Masai discussed the Raptors' president's ambitious plan to build Basketball courts across the African Continent.

He will undertake the projects through his Giants of Africa organisation.

"The pandemic period has been tough but we have to be tough and get back to normal life. We want to build 100 basketball courts in Africa as the youth need them to play. It will cost 3 million US dollars.

"This is charity we are doing with Giants of Africa. The courts will foster sports among the youth and we have seen this happening in Rwanda already," he stated.

He later proceeded to gift Koinange a Raptors jersey with his name printed on the back and welcomed him to Canada to watch a Raptors game.

On July 16, 2018, the official launch of the Sauti Kuu Foundation Sports, Resource and Vocational Training Centre took place in Alego, Siaya County.

As part of the launch, Giants of Africa opened up a custom court that featured 90 youth from the community that participated in a minicamp.

Masai was joined by President Obama, Auma Obama, Jama Mahlalela (Raptors 905, Head Coach), Patrick Engelbrecht (Toronto Raptors, Director of Global Scouting), Amadou Fall (NBA Africa, VP, and Managing Director) and NBA player Bismack Biyombo of the Charlotte Hornets.


In this much-anticipated homecoming for President Obama to Kenya, he participated in on-court activities with youth from Sauti Kuu and capped off the visit with a made shot to open up the court.