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: In 2014, there were four Canadians picked in the NBA draft, including Andrew Wiggins at No. 1. Twelve Canucks were on this year’s opening day rosters—a new record. Is it a blip, or do you think it’s a permanent change?
It’s real, 100 percent real. Seven or eight years ago, when I was in the States, I was following all these kids on their youth teams, and now they are making their mark. The progress these guys are making, being prominent on their [NBA] teams, they have big futures. And the last two No. 1 draft picks having been Canadian, that helps. There’s noise and attention and that’s helping the growth of the game here. Now we have young Canadian players, 11 or 12 years old, watching these guys and saying, “You know what? I can do that.”