Masai Ujiri’s impact on Canada extends beyond Raptors, basketball

Very quietly, late on the Friday afternoon of Labour Day weekend, the Toronto Raptors put out a press release announcing the team had signed president Masai Ujiri to a contract extension.

The timing would be suitable to pass on news you desperately want buried — the settling of an embarrassing court case, or a contentious firing.

Retaining one of the most accomplished young executives in sports? A figure who provides instant credibility not only in the NBA, but all over the basketball world?

That’s the kind of news you want out in front of as many eyes and ears as possible.

But that’s Ujiri. The last thing he wants is to be made the centre of attention, and so the news that he was staying was announced when almost anyone who might want to know was looking the other way.

Every once in a while, though, you are reminded how fortunate the Raptors are to have him and the kind of impact he hopes to have, when he’s willing to be out front, to use his name to support a cause, to make things happen that have very little to do with NBA basketball.

Friday afternoon was one of those times.

At the Raptors’ gleaming BioSteel Centre practice facility, Ujiri was helping play host to 10 kids from La Loche, Sask., a remote Native community about six hours north of Saskatoon.

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