Fresh off his team’s first NBA Title, Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri said his future is in Toronto when asked at his year-end press conference on Tuesday.
Ujiri spoke to media at the OVO Athletic Centre at 11 a.m., where he was questioned on a number of different topics, including rumours of a potential departure to another team.
“For me, it’s always been about Toronto. I love it here, my family loves it here, my wife loves it here. My kids are Canadians and you want to win more,” he said, adding other teams expressing interest in his services is a “blessing in life.”
“For me, the blessing [also] is being wanted here and finding a place that makes you happy and finding challenges that really make you grow as a person and this place has made me grow as a person.
“In my mind, I’m here.”
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It was Ujiri’s first time speaking to media after the team dethroned the reigning champs Golden State Warriors in six games to capture the NBA Championship.
“It’s such an awesome feeling to sit in front of you guys and the whole world celebrating a championship,” Ujiri said to open up the press conference.
“I just want to congratulate everybody from top to bottom … it’s just an incredible feeling,” he said. “It still hasn’t sunk in to me, from ownership to players, coaches, front office, everybody who put this together.
“It’s such a big thing for our team, our city, our country to get to this moment. You can’t even describe it. It’s why we work.”
The executive finished fourth in voting for executive of the year at the NBA Awards on Monday, despite the huge moves he made — acquiring Kawhi Leonard in a blockbuster trade, as well as Marc Gasol at the trade deadline.
Among the questions Ujiri was asked, was about the police deputy in Oakland, who alleges he suffered a concussion and hurt his jaw in an altercation with the president as Ujiri tried to get onto the court when the Raptors clinched the title.
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Ujiri would not go into detail but said he is cooperating with the investigation and that he respects the process.
“I’m confident about who I am as a person, my character and as a human being,” he said. “So for now, I’ll just respect their process there and wait for the next steps.”
As for next steps, Ujiri said he is focused on free agency, especially in regard to Leonard.
“Our organization feels confident and we do feel confident but Kawhi is his own man,” Ujiri said. “I’m glad we got him for the year … I think we built a trust there, but at the end of the day, the relationship I’ve developed with Kawhi and the relationship this organization has built with Kawhi, we will respect his position.”
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The executive is also focused on his work in Africa. With his Giants of Africa organization, Ujiri said they would be visiting six different countries – which will be announced in a few days time.
“When I think of all those places we go to, those refugee camps, I think why do those places exist, they’re not supposed to exist and what hope do you give those people?” Ujiri said. “I think of where all of these guys started and where I started and I’m telling you … one day, I’m going to tell an unbelievable story and you know what, that story includes a championship and I’m so freaking proud that it does.”
Ujiri said how grateful he was to have the opportunity he has in life. He said it’s incredible, especially to come from Zaria in northern Nigeria and being where he is now, working with the Giants of Africa, receiving calls from Presidents and interacting with players such as Leonard and other GMs.
“However it is, I’m really appreciative that I’m here because I shouldn’t be. If you really look at life, I shouldn’t be here,” he said. “But man, this is Canada, this is here, what an opportunity, what a country.”
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