Interestingly enough, despite some of the African names who have made it to the NBA, the sport isn’t nearly as big there as some sports like soccer. However, one notable African name who has found success off the court is the president of the Toronto Raptors, Nigerian-born Masai Ujiri. Face 2 Face Africa covers some of the initiatives Ujiri is a part of to try and uplift the youth of his home continent.
Born in the northern Nigerian town of Zaria to a Nigerian father who was a hospital administrator, and a Kenyan mother, the former player is the first African NBA executive, and supports his home with programs like NBA’s Basketball Without Borders Africa program and his own Giants of Africa program. This uses basketball as a means to educate and enrich the lives of underprivileged African youth.
“It’s an obligation for me to do this. I see it more as an opportunity. It [the role] is heavy on my shoulder and I feel it because I grew up like these youth, but I think I have the opportunity and I may as well use the opportunity to help the youngsters in Africa,” Masai Ujiri told Face2Face Africa in an exclusive interview. However, he was quick to add that he wasn’t the only person out there working towards this goal.
“I am not the only promoter of the game … There are many people that do it. I do have a platform that’s visible because of my position. There are lots and lots of people doing lots of great things on the continent with basketball, some may be as visible, some not as visible, some even more visible. It is a huge continent and it takes a lot to get things going.”
The Giants of Africa camps have groomed thousands of players since their inception. Over 80 of them attended high school or university in the United States and nearly 20 former participants are currently playing on junior teams in clubs throughout Europe.
“We are opening the borders and giving more youth opportunities and that’s how we started by going to different countries. We first went to my mom’s country, my mom is Kenyan, and started opening up and visiting other countries, knowing their culture whether it’s their food, the way they dress, the way they sing and all those different things,” he said.