Think Like an Entrepreneur
Masai Ujiri has transformed multiple franchises into successful organizations including the NBA championship-winning Toronto Raptors. Ujiri discusses his entrepreneurial mindset of passion over ambition, making difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions, focusing on community, creating a winning culture, and more. Ujiri’s lessons can be applied to any organization trying to jumpstart a turnaround. Ujiri inspires audiences with his passion and drive, and leaves listeners with tangible takeaways on how to think like an entrepreneur every day.
Masai Ujiri is one of the most influential leaders in the NBA, leading the Toronto Raptors to their most successful period in franchise history, including an NBA Championship – the first in their 24-year history, and the only team outside the United States to do so. At the same time, his Giants of Africa Foundation has lead talented African Players to compete at the highest levels in basketball. Now, Masai speaks about how he applies his leadership skills to win on and off the court, lift up those around him, and develop the next generation of leaders.
Ujiri has dedicated much of his life to empowering youth in Africa. He founded Giants of Africa in 2003 with the mission of using basketball as a tool to enrich the lives of African youth globally, and create opportunities for them to realize their potential. Over the past 17 years the organization has traversed more than 17 African countries and territories conducting camps, building courts, and facilitating youth outreach. Masai also served as director of the NBA’s Basketball without Borders program. He speaks throughout the globe on his philanthropic values, and desire to better the lives of others.
Masai is an active voice in the social justice movement, and has always been a strong advocate for equality. His very public experience with racism during the 2019 NBA Championships sparked national and international headlines, and lead to the Humanity movement – a platform to continue the conversation on social justice and what it means to be a human being. Masai now speaks passionately about the fight for equality, and how we can work together build a future without discrimination.
Building Strong Business Cultures
Masai has a proven ability to build strong business cultures. As President of the Toronto Raptors and Founder of the Giants of Africa Foundation, he is known for fostering greatness within organizations, and isn’t afraid to take risks. In his talks, Ujiri uses his own story and journey to highlight how to build strong and sustainable business cultures, and brings attention to the importance of equity and inclusion.
Masai Ujiri believes that when women win, we all win, and to uplift communities, we need to begin by uplifting women. Masai uses his many personal experiences, such as growing the Toronto Raptors staff from one woman in 2013 to 15 strong female leaders to date, and impacting hundreds of young females through Giants of Africa women’s camps, to teach how to provide equal opportunity and champion women.
Think like an entrepreneur: Masai Ujiri discusses the entrepreneur’s mindset
Vice Chairman and President of the Toronto Raptors MASAI UJIRI came from Nigeria to play college basketball in the States, then went on to become an unpaid scout across Europe, a General Manager of the Nuggets and today is the most sought after executive in the NBA. How’d he get from there to here? He’ll explain it simply: Passion over ambition. The channeling of that passion into quick-thinking, strategic management decisions is what makes successful entrepreneurs, and Ujiri delivers a master class. Marshall Egelnick, a retired partner from KRP, wrote about how entrepreneurs can use management lessons from Ujiri, sharing, “The Raptors didn’t just win an NBA title, they delivered lessons in business management that can be applied across industries. They showed us that an also-ran could become a going concern in just a few years with the right combination of vision and managerial mettle. The most important management team member responsible for bringing glory to the franchise was team president Masai Ujiri…Ujiri managed to pull off a corporate turnaround of epic proportions.”
Ujiri discusses his entrepreneurial mindset, making difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions, focusing on community, creating a winning culture, and more. Ujiri’s lessons can be applied to any organization trying to jumpstart a turnaround. Ujiri inspires audiences with his passion and drive, and leaves listeners with tangible takeaways on how to think like an entrepreneur every day.
Masai Ujiri speaks on resilient leadership, creating a winning culture, and creating a better path forward for others
When Vice Chairman and President of the Toronto Raptors MASAI UJIRI ‘stopped by’ HWA for a virtual chat recently, we got a chance to get to know the man behind the hashtag #InMasaiWeTrust. He shared with us his insights on resilient leadership in tough times, creating a winning culture, as well as his deep philanthropy work to create a better path forward for others. In fact, Ujiri donates his speaking fees to the youth development program he founded, Giants of Africa which uses basketball to enrich the lives of African youth through education, both on and off the court. ‘Passion over ambition’ was the guiding force throughout his career development from player, to scout to executive- across Africa, Europe and North America – to the pinnacle as the most sought after executive in the NBA. He talked about sometimes making difficult, unpopular decisions as a means of architecting a turnaround, as he did for the championship-winning Raptors. His humility and focus on community – in the local and bigger sense – really stood out to us as an integral part of who he is as a person and executive. I cannot recommend Masai highly enough for an inspiring talk to rally your audience and leadership.
Masai Ujiri: Speaker Spotlight on Purpose Driven Leadership
President – Toronto Raptors; Co-Founder – Giants of Africa
When his friends and classmates in Nigeria were playing soccer, Masai Ujiri was watching highlights of Hakeem Olajuwon. His love of the game brought him to college in the United States, and when his career on the court was complete, his career off-court began.
He started on the ground as a scout, working for teams traveling the world and searching for talent in gyms all over the globe. Masai was named general manager of the Denver Nuggets in 2011, becoming the first African GM in pro sports, and won the 2013 NBA Executive of the Year award. In Toronto, he has served as director of global scouting and assistant general manager, and in 2013, Masai was named President of the Toronto Raptors, a title he holds to this day.
Under his leadership, the Raptors won the 2019 NBA Championship, the first team outside the United States to do so.
Masai has said that while he is proud to be the first African team president in North American sports, he would consider it a failure if he was the last: “Being first is good, but I don't want to be the only one. There have to be more.” Masai’s belief in equity and diversity is reflected in his organization: he has committed to hiring women, and recently creating the position of vice-president of organizational inclusion and diversity.
Masai has served as director of the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders Africa program. He has travelled with the Prime Minister as part of the Canadian delegation to the 2019 African Union meetings. He has been named Toronto’s most influential person, and his urging of citizens to “believe in this city – believe in yourselves” is often cited as a rallying cry. Masai and his wife, Ramatu, live in Toronto with their children.
In 2003, Masai co-founded Giants of Africa, an organization which uses sport as a tool to enrich the lives of youth on the continent, and create opportunities for them on and off the court. Masai’s ethos is to “Dream Big,” and now GOA connects with youth – both boys and girls - in more than 17 African countries and territories.
The summer of 2018 marked 15 years of the organization, and that July, Masai and former U.S. President Barack Obama opened the Giants of Africa court at the Sauti Kuu Foundation Sports, Resource and Vocational Training Centre, in Alego, Kenya. In summer 2022, the inaugural Giants of Africa Festival will bring together 200 youth from 11 countries in Africa to Kigali, Rwanda for a week-long celebration of basketball, education, culture, and entertainment.
In 2020, Masai launched thatshumanity.org, inspired by his experiences and the lessons learned from leaders like Nelson Mandela. “For me,” he says, “it’s about seeing each other. Really seeing. Trying to understand what someone else is going through. And helping if we can. Even if it’s just a kind word. Some encouragement. That’s humanity.”