Setting aside what it says about how we view professional basketball, it certainly did feel like Masai Ujiri was the Toronto Raptors’ biggest free agent. And after Kyle Lowry confirmed he was preparing to decamp to join the Miami Heat, losing Ujiri would have been a lot for fans in Toronto to handle. It didn’t help that mum had been the word for much of the past year as to Masai’s contract status.
Fortunately, the days of waiting are now over: as reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Raptors and Ujiri have agreed to a deal to have their long-time franchise architect back for the coming season.
ESPN Sources: Masai Ujiri – architect of the 2019 champions-- has agreed to a significant new deal to become Vice Chairman!President of the Toronto Raptors. Ujiri continues as both Raptors top basketball/business executive and a global philanthropist through his Giants of Africa.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 5, 2021
What’s left to say about Masai? Since taking over the Raptors in 2013, he’s been dealt some lucky hands — but he’s also smartly made the most of each and every one of them, building for the present and with an eye on the future. It’s how the Raptors ended up being in a position to make the Kawhi Leonard trade to begin with, which lead directly to the above-noted 2019 championship for Toronto. Yes, the players play the games, but team culture, development, staffing, all those things we now associate with the Raptors’ brand — along with winning — leads back to Ujiri.
While it remains to be seen how this new “Vice Chairman” title will work, or what Masai’s day-to-day duties will be — along with current GM Bobby Webster — what we do know is, I think, what most every Raptors fan wanted to hear: Masai is coming back to Toronto.