With the Raptors’ future secure, Ujiri focused on the story again – .

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With the Raptors’ future secure, Ujiri focused on the story again – .


The only thing missing was champagne.
When the MLSE business jet arrived in Miami, the deal was finally made.

Masai Ujiri was going to stay with the Toronto Raptors and for the first time in nearly two years, questions about the status of the team president could be assuaged and the focus could be firmly on the future.

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment president and minority owner and his right-hand man Dale Lastman arrived in Miami to pick up Ujiri in early August to bring him back to Toronto to sign a deal that would make him the richest leader in the NBA – if not all North American sports – but also connect it to the franchise in a way almost unheard of in the industry.

Ujiri is not only tasked with closing deals, finding trades and hitting home runs on draft day, his role will continue to be all of those things, but also raising the profile of the organization within the League. league and in all sports in the world.

It was the celebration of a negotiation that had been intense but friendly and the start of a new chapter in an ongoing story that is in its infancy.

The plan was to toast the deal on the flight back to Toronto for the final papers, but the champagne never made it on board.

It was an oversight, but perhaps the only detail that was not addressed in a comprehensive negotiation that began in early June and lasted almost two months.

No matter. Ujiri was on the plane and the agreement was signed. And in his first public comments since his contract was announced on August 5; he confirmed that his plan is to see this through.

The exact terms of the deal were vague and even after the Ujiri press conference on Wednesday afternoon, they remain so.

For example: what exactly does “vice-president” mean – his new title in addition to president -?

“It’s sexy, it’s cool,” was Ujiri’s final summary after talking at length on everything from his role in the international growth of the Raptors’ business, to infrastructure upgrades locally to the Raptors and pressure from MLSE to create more opportunities for the BIPOC (black, indigenous and people of color) community.

But sometimes the spirit of the thing speaks louder than the details.

How long is Ujiri’s new contract?

” For all time. Put the pressure on Larry [Tanenbaum], here, ”Ujiri said. “Forever, man. For all time. No, honestly, I’m not going to put things in there. I’m home, man. That’s it. We will try to win in the best possible way. It is a commitment. I’ve always said that when you make that commitment, you make that commitment. That’s what I said eight years ago. I think we honored him as a family. And that’s what we intend to do always.

My best guess? Given that the deal was heralded as ‘multi-year’ and ‘important’ and given that Ujiri did not make sure Toronto was at home, there is no chance that the contract will be for three years. or less. But given the rapidly changing business climate in sports, Ujiri would be unwise to lock himself into anything like seven or 10 years. Much like the best players in the NBA, you always want to be able to negotiate again when the time comes.

Does five years sound good? It seems reasonable to me. But even if we do this dance again in 2026, it is clear that Ujiri’s heart is there.

Much of the work on the deal was done by Lastman and Ujiri’s adviser Robbie Robinson of Pendulum holdings, who also advises former US President Barack Obama. Tanenbaum and Ujiri have started to participate more directly in recent weeks as momentum for the deal builds.

The negotiation was difficult for exactly this reason, Ujiri said. At 51, he was at a crossroads professionally and personally – Ujiri’s wife and two school-aged children were at the press conference; they decided not to risk their baby’s finicky factor – and the next step had to be right.

“I understood that this process was going to be difficult and that’s why I left it until the end of the season,” said Ujiri. “Negotiating is difficult, that’s what comes out on the pitch. My family and I have really looked at this and you get different offers, but there comes a time when you have to weigh those options and what is best for my family and for me. Everything we experienced always came back to Toronto and what Toronto means to me as a city. I call him home. This is the home for me and my family. When it comes to negotiating, we just need to talk about some of the things that are not only important to me, but also important to the organization. And you collect it.

It is Ujiri’s task now. He has to bring it all together.

He was given the keys to the kingdom – or he deserved them. Multiple sources have confirmed that there was no property deal, but in addition to an estimated salary of around $ 15 million, there are likely “equity-like” elements to the deal. OK. According to executive compensation experts, this could mean that Ujiri earns bonuses based on income or even participates in the growth of the valuation of the company during its transaction. Given the revenues MLSE has enjoyed, not to mention the trajectory of NBA franchise values ​​- $ 2 billion and rising even at the bottom of the ladder – Ujiri is in a position to be richly rewarded.

But winning drives the bus. Tanenbaum is as low-key an owner as you’ll find in the ego-driven pro sports world, but it was hard not to notice the diamond encrusted ring he wore during the 2019 Raptors Championship as he watched. from the front row while Ujiri spoke.

“I said it from the start when I got here, we want to win in Toronto, we want to win another championship,” Ujiri said. “All this stuff [the 2019 title] is in the past. Yes, you can celebrate and be cool about what you’ve done in the past, but the NBA is now.

“We have to put ourselves in a position to win another championship. In some ways there is unfinished business, ”Ujiri said, alluding to the moment he was manhandled by an Oakland cop as he was on his way to celebrate after the Raptors took out Golden State in the game. 6th of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. in 2019, an incident that made headlines, lawsuits and tainted what should have been a career defining moment.

Tanenbaum nodded in approval of the message.

If Ujiri can bring the Raptors back to this point, it will be his biggest achievement yet and justify every penny, every advantage and every freedom his new contract offers. He starts off with a young, largely unproven team, and once again faces headwinds against superstars and super teams in a league that caters to both.

But he believes it can be done and the Raptors have given him a deal that expresses their full confidence that he can make history again.

“I want to celebrate as it should be a day when we win a championship,” said Ujiri. “… And it will happen, by the grace of God.

Then there will be champagne. You can guarantee it.

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