This weekend, the Toronto Raptors will host their first NBA All-Star game. In the midst of the team’s preparations for the big event, their general manager, Masai Ujiri, spoke to Maclean’s senior correspondent Jonathon Gatehouse about his reputation for saying exactly what he thinks, the challenges—and benefits—of being the country’s only NBA team, and Canada’s rise as a bona fide basketball power. Here’s a sample from the interview, which can be found in full here.
Q: You’re outspoken, and your passion and mouth have got you in trouble with the league a couple of times. Have you learned from that?
Are there ways to do it better? I don’t know how you can curse better. [laughs] The scoldings I got still ring in my ears. I have learned from it. The first time, it galvanized our team. The second time, it ate me up, because I almost feel like I cost us the loss last year. When you do stuff like that it puts pressure. It killed me for a long time. Did I let the team down as a leader?
Q: What did you conclude?
I concluded that I’m a competitor. And, whatever happens, you keep leading. You can’t fear anybody. Why? Because at the end of the day, I might not be in this job a couple of years from now. I’m here to win.