His voice quaking with emotion, the memory of a man he considers his idol about to be honoured by a star-studded array of his friends, Masai Ujiri tried to explain how the legacy of Nelson Mandela can help the world today.
The emotion was raw, the feeling came from the heart.
“He forgave after all he went through,” the Raptors general manager said Friday of Mandela, as his organization celebrated the Giant of Africa a year after his death. “I think we should learn to be that way.
”We see all the problems in Ferguson and all these things going on: Just forgive and move on. People need to learn that. That’s what he taught us, he sacrificed his life for 27 years … I tell you what, we are blessed in a country like Canada because we have peace here, we have good people.
“There are good people all around the world and a very little percentage of people not so good. That big percentage has to work harder to make that little percentage shrink.”
Ujiri’s efforts to celebrate the former South African president and global icon made for one of the most special regular season nights in Raptors franchise history.
Magic Johnson, Dikembe Mutombo, deputy NBA commissioner Mark Tatum, Charles Barkley and a host of others gathered for the celebration. And while Mandela’s legacy was honoured, it was putting his action and life into the context of today’s society that was at the forefront.
“It can teach them a lot,” said Johnson. “For us to change things, we have to get people to the table that can bring about change. We’ve got to do it in a peaceful way.
“What Nelson was able to do was bring people together, motivate people, educate people and then go have them go out and be his ambassadors to bring about change.”
And try to live as he did.
“What Madiba taught us was so much,” said Mutombo. “He showed us that no matter what you do in your life, you can move on, learn how to forgive people, learn how to show people love . . . learn how to co-operate even with the people who have hurt you.
“To come here and to see what Toronto stands for, a multi-cultural, international capital of the world, it means a lot.”
And at the centre of it all stood Ujiri, whose respect for Mandela knows no bounds.
“The world is not in a good place, in my opinion, and he makes it better,” said the general manager. “I think he’s going to be bigger, even though he’s passed. He was bigger than life.”
By: Doug Smith Sports Reporter, Published on Fri Dec 05 2014