Hubert Davis’ new documentary Giants of Africa follows Masai Ujiri, president and general manager of the Toronto Raptors basketball team, on a journey of philanthropy and inspiration.
At the age of 18, Ujiri left his home of Zaria, Nigeria, to play college ball in the United States. He then moved on to coaching and scouting, and with his Raptors position became the first African-born president of a major North American league sports team. (He remains the only one.) In 2003, he began running basketball camps in Nigeria, and the operation has since expanded to Ghana, Kenya, and Rwanda. Giants of Africa accompanies Ujiri to these countries, showing how he empowers the next generation to become the giants they have the potential to be — on and off the court.
With Hardwood, a short film about his Harlem Globetrotter father, Davis became the first African-Canadian to be nominated for an Academy Award. Now, returning to the subject of basketball, he again captures the sport’s inherent poetry. Giants of Africa flows among numerous stories and locales with a grace like that of the players on screen. It pays tribute to the distinct cultures and histories of each nation, and highlights the tenacity of the kids who’ve come out to train with the best.
Though most of the youths want to become an African NBA star like Hakeem Olajuwon or Dikembe Mutombo, Giants of Africa is about more than merely “making it.” As Ujiri demands of the kids in the camps, “You have to grow up and you have to be better.” Make their countries better. Their continent better. Davis shows Ujiri and his team leading young Africans to aim, always, ever higher.