Masai Ujiri ended his press conference on Tuesday by talking about something much bigger than basketball. He was there to discuss Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey's newly agreed-to contract and the future of the team, but the general manager, who grew up in Zaria, a town in the northern part of Nigeria, also wanted to speak out about what was going where he came from.
In northeastern Nigeria, more than 200 school-aged girls have recently been kidnapped. Unprompted, Ujiri delivered a passionate speech after he and Casey had finished taking questions.
“I'm going to address it straight on," Ujiri said. "What is happening in Nigeria is an absolute atrocity. For me to grow up in northern Nigeria and see what is happening with the abducted kids and women there, I have a daughter, I have a wife. I have a mom and sister that still live in Nigeria.
"For what is going on there, it is something that, I think, the whole world has to look at, and we have to address strongly. Me in my position, I honestly want to be outspoken about it because I think it's where I grew up and it should not be happening. I'm passionate about where I come from and what happens to young kids and people that deserve opportunity. I just wanted to mention that.”
In interviews, Ujiri has often talked about the responsibility he feels to give back to the continent of Africa. He has run a foundation called Giants of Africa for more than 10 years, and its goal is to educate and create opportunities for young people through basketball.