Toronto Raptors president and vice chairman Masai Ujiri is one of the latest guests to join CBC's daily "Front Burner" podcast, hosted by Jayme Poisson.
A very special episode today, featuring Toronto @Raptors president and newly minted vice-chairman Masai Ujiri in conversation with @jayme_poisson. Here are some highlights: pic.twitter.com/NLFMWTlIQj- Front Burner (@FrontBurnerCBC) September 8, 2021
During his time as a guest on the show, Ujiri discussed a range of topics with Poisson, including his decision to remain with the Raptors franchise, the franchise's future, Kyle Lowry's legacy, growing the game of basketball in Africa and much more.
To open, Ujiri explained that a large part of his decision was because "Toronto has become home for me, for my family. There's something about this space of Toronto, of Canada, that really is special. It gives me a good platform to speak, to represent and it's a unique space."
Ujiri cited the diversity within the city of Toronto and the country of Canada as an influential part of his platform, adding that "there's a freeness - there's a certain way, that a lot of people around the world don't even know (about Canada). And sometimes, we inside don't even know."
With Ujiri leading the Raptors' front office for the foreseeable future, the focus shifts forward to the team's ability to compete after the departure of Kyle Lowry, who played a key role for the last nine seasons with the team. On Lowry, Ujiri gushed, saying "he's somebody that's really courageous. Somebody that wants to be bigger, better and that's what Kyle was. Yeah, we had our ups and downs and yeah he had his moments but I've always said it - he's always been respectful."
Ujiri continued with his praise of Lowry, adding that "he might be one of the most competitive persons that I've ever been around … I think those competitive people in the world have an edge about them. The most incredible thing is how his game has evolved with time - he's very thoughtful, he's a visionary of the game."
On Kyle Lowry:- Front Burner (@FrontBurnerCBC) September 8, 2021
"He's very thoughtful. He's a visionary of the game...Kyle Lowry is Kyle Lowry...he's the best."
Now that Lowry has joined the Miami Heat, Ujiri hopes that the foundation has been laid for a future player to build on what Lowry has to forge an even greater legacy with the Raptors, similar to the way in which the likes of Lowry, Chris Bosh, DeMar DeRozan and Kawhi Leonard built legacies by breaking records set by Vince Carter and Damon Stoudamire.
This, of course, begins with the new era of basketball that starts in the 2021-22 season, to which Ujiri said "we're going to rebuild as a team. We're a young team but there's no deficit in leadership. You know, Fred [VanVleet] is an unbelievable leader. This is what everybody is going to see now, you know, the kind of leader he is.
On rebuilding the Raptors:- Front Burner (@FrontBurnerCBC) September 8, 2021
"We are a young team, but there is no deficit in leadership. You know, Fred [VanVleet] is an unbelievable leader. This is what everybody is going to see now....We're not a team of 'now'. There are going to be growing pains. "
"We are not a team of 'now,'" Ujiri added. "There are going to be growing pains, trust me, you know like, sometimes it's gonna be tough to watch but we know what's coming, we know we're excited about the young talent. They are excited to play - to see how, OG [Anunoby], Pascal [Siakam], Fred, are going to evolve as leaders - as elite players.
"And then the young guys, [Scottie] Barnes, Malachi [Flynn], Dalano [Banton]. In sports, people think 'now,' you know? And this is where we have to be patient and let it grow."
Led by 27-year-olds in Siakam and VanVleet and a 24-year-old in Anunoby, the future is promising for the Raptors, who will also rely on 20-year-old Barnes, 21-year-old Precious Achiuwa, 22-year-old Gary Trent Jr. and the 23-year-old Flynn.
Like Ujiri, Achiuwa is a native of Nigeria and a direct beneficiary of Ujiri's attempts to grow the game of basketball in the continent of Africa.
On building African basketball through his non-profit, "Giants of Africa":- Front Burner (@FrontBurnerCBC) September 8, 2021
"When I look at those kids, I see myself. When I see myself, I see those kids. In every single way. If I can make it, and get to this place...these kids can make it even further."
To listen to Ujiri's interview in its entirety, head here.
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