Masai Ujiri’s ‘Giants of Africa’ project  

Masai Ujiri

Masai Ujiri, now 53, was born in Bournemouth, England, to Nigerian and Kenyan parents. His parents were foreign students in England. The family moved back to Nigeria when he was two years old; so he grew up in Zaria, Nigeria.

Ujiri joined the backroom staff of the Toronto Raptors in 2008. During a successful stint with the Denver Nuggets as general manager and executive vice president of basketball operations, he was named the NBA Executive of the Year in 2013. Ujiri returned to the Raptors as general manager. In 2016 he was named president of basketball operations. 

This year Ujiri celebrates the 20th anniversary of “Giants of Africa”, a non-profit organization that hosts youth basketball camps on the continent which he co-founded in 2003.

He began hosting the camps in Nigeria, but they are now spread across many countries. Though the number of camps vary, the organization usually visits three African countries every summer.

Ujiri firmly believes that there’s nothing, that can be done in America and Canada that can’t be done in Africa.

He underlines that by reminding that the MVP Joel Embiid of the NBA Philadelphia 76ers is from Cameroon.

Ujiri celebrated the 20th anniversary of his organization this year with the festival, a week-long event in Kigali, Rwanda, that brought together 250 basketball players between the ages of 15 to 19 from 16 different countries. More than 6,000 kids have participated in the camps, and over 200 have gone on to attend U.S. colleges on scholarships.

While Giants of Africa obviously serves a talent-spotting purpose, its wider objective is to inspire African youth to realize their worth through sport. He asserts that sports provides business and economic opportunities that can follow a career in sports. And one can use the resilience, concentration, responsibility and teamwork acquired during a career in sports to succeed in other aspects of life.

Masai Ujiri is not averse to using his celebrity status to advance his cause. He has the ear of several African leaders and encourages them to invest in sports infrastructure on a national level by building arenas and facilities.