Moments after reaching the pinnacle of his career, Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri was involved in an ugly incident.
With the Raptors celebrating their first NBA championship on the Oracle Arena floor in Oakland, a sheriff’s deputy prevented Ujiri from joining the festivities. Ujiri and the deputy allegedly became involved in a physical altercation before Kyle Lowry helped pull the executive away from the situation.
The fact that it was Lowry coming to Ujiri’s defence is significant because of the strong, complicated bond the two have formed over the years.
Ujiri famously made the blockbuster trade to acquire Kawhi Leonard in the summer of 2018, but it came at a cost: sending franchise icon —and Lowry’s best friend — DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs.
The relationship between the two men seemed to reach a boiling point in December, when Lowry had some curt words about his connection with Ujiri. The two had what Ujiri described as a “tough” one-on-one discussion in February to clear the air and mend fences.
So to see Lowry helping his team president in his time of need was particularly powerful.
"To me, those moments happen naturally, there's nothing made up," Ujiri said in an interview with Business Insider. "That's just how it is. It was very genuine. He came to get me. All the stuff I was going through … it was awesome.
"Everybody looks at when Kyle was upset because of the trade, but we have always had a big brother relationship. He's never been a rude or disrespectful person. He is quiet, wanting it to be business-like, and was obviously hurt by that trade. But we've always had a bond in some kind of way."
The incident between the deputy and Ujiri has not yet been resolved, but 49-year-old Ujiri intends to respect the process and reserve comment until the investigation is complete. For now, Ujiri seems to be enjoying his time in Africa with the Larry OB.
"Taking the Trophy back to where it all began gave me chills. I would not change anything about my youth. WOW. Zaria!!!! Seeing all my friends and teammates, house where I lived, was such a joy. Thank you Coach OBJ, for bringing ball in my life."
– Masai pic.twitter.com/QZnX0sF6EZ
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) August 11, 2019
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