Masai Ujiri and Pascal Siakam take Africa legends to new heights

Raptors President Masai Uzirik He got a little emotional as he recalled a moment from his childhood, in which his mother asked about his worn-out shoes and wondered if the sport would ever feed him.

“It’s feeding a lot of people now,” Ujiri said Monday at the United Nations Invincible Africa conference in New York.

Ujiri and the Raptor Star Pascal I’m sorry Among the high-profile panelists were those who reiterated their commitment to helping basketball, and the sport in general, continue to grow on the African continent.

“The sport is here to stay and we are the definition of invincible,” Ujiri said. “We should no longer look at sports as mere entertainment. Sport is a business. It creates incredible opportunities for all of us.”

The Africa legend, which Ujiri co-founded in 2003, has helped top African prospects reach the NBA over the years. Now it is also focusing on employment generation, empowerment of women and youth and paving the way for lasting peace and prosperity.

Ujiri was instrumental in the creation and launch of the 12-team Basketball Africa League, which held its inaugural tournament last year in Kigali, Rwanda. Veterans of Africa have also set up courts and summer camps in several countries to encourage participation.

Ujiri is proud of the rise of NBA stars with African heritage – including Siakam, Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo – and says this is just the beginning.

“I can tell you this: every single one of them is moving around the continent,” he said on Monday.

Amadou Fall, president of the Basketball Africa League, said the increase in participation and interest would lead to financial opportunities.

“Africa needs to stop being an exporter of talent,” he said. “We want to create an entertainment platform right here on the continent.”

Giants of Africa, which was co-founded by Masai Ujiri in 2003, has helped many high-level basketball talent from Africa reach the NBA over the years.

Little is known about the state of the game in Africa compared to 28-year-old Siakam, a two-time All-NBA selection after attending the Basketball Without Borders camps organized by former NBA player Luke Mbah a Mout. had come. Raptors Power Forward now organizes summer camps for youth through its PS43 Foundation.

“I started playing basketball when I was 17, which is super crazy,” Siakam told Monday’s conference call. He wants to pay it further.

“I hope to be part of those who inspire other young Africans to dream big,” said Siakam, who mentioned plans to contribute to building schools and community centers in Africa. “Education is the most important thing. My dad believed in it, and I do too.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the work done by Africa’s Giants goes beyond building infrastructure and discovering talent. He praised the program for teaching valuable life skills.

“I would include myself as one of those guys,” said Silver, who has never played professionally but said the sport taught him about discipline and hard work.

He said that about 10 percent of current NBA players were born in Africa, giving young hopefuls something to do.

Silver also ventured into other sports, speaking on a panel with African Football Confederation President Patrice Motsepe.

“We are not Coke and Pepsi,” he said. “Whether you shoot it or kick it, we can work hand in hand.”

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