In May 2017, Masai Ujiri stepped up to the podium and said the two words that were heard loud and clear across Raptors Nation: Culture reset.
Two years, a coaching change, several team- and league-altering trades and one historic NBA title later, it’s clear Ujiri & Co. accomplished just that — and much more.
During his season-ending press conference on Tuesday, Ujiri reflected on the year that was, praised the performances of several players on the championship-winning club, and expressed plenty of optimism about the future of the team — including his (and a certain star player’s) place on it.
Here are a some of the top sound bites and highlights from the press conference:
He brought in a very special (and super shiny) guest.
Masai Ujiri had a special guest at his season-ending press conference pic.twitter.com/OZm7yPbdj1
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) June 25, 2019
Ujiri also said he intends to bring the trophy to Africa this summer.
He believes basketball is changing the sporting landscape in Canada.
“Oh, that’s a touchy subject here,” he said with a laugh when asked if he thinks basketball could replace hockey as the top sport in Canada. “You know what, Shanny’s [Brendan Shanahan] my boy and so is Kyle [Dubas], but I really do think so. Yeah, I really do.
“The way basketball is growing, just around the world, and we saw the following. I do think that we’re lucky in a place like Canada that there’s room for baseball, there’s room for basketball, there’s room for hockey, there’s room for soccer.”
He guaranteed a Stanley Cup for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“I remember here, six years ago, five years ago, we’re talking about, ‘Can any team here ever win a championship again?’ The soccer team does, the basketball team has, and I guarantee you the hockey team will. Guarantee. They will.”
(Spoken like a true champ.)
He put rumours of a possible departure to rest.
“For me, it’s always been about Toronto. I love it here, my family loves it here, my wife loves it here, which is very important. My kids are Canadians. You want to win more. For me, yeah, I can continue to address teams wanting me and all those things but that’s a blessing in life.
“For me, the blessing is being wanted here and finding a place that makes you happy and finding challenges that really make you grow as a person and this place has made me grow as a person. I identify with this place and I love it. So in my mind, I’m here.”
He called Kyle Lowry “arguably the greatest Raptor ever.”
Masai calls Kyle Lowry “arguably the greatest Raptor ever … There is something about him that is all competition, all winning.” Ujiri says he saw the loyalty in Lowry after the DeRozan trade.
— CityNews Toronto (@CityNews) June 25, 2019
He shared a simple, but touching story about DeMar DeRozan.
“When San Antonio came here — I’ve never said this to anybody, but something unbelievable happened. DeMar came into our locker room, and to show you the classy human being he is, he came up to me and he hugged me. And he asked me how my family was doing.”
He spoke of the trust he built with Kawhi, and his confidence about the Finals MVP staying put.