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Ujiri’s bold vision of Raptors’ potential realized under NBA Finals spotlight

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TORONTO – Since his team was eliminated from the NBA playoffs just over 12 months ago, Masai Ujiri’s public profile has been relatively muted.

Based on track record, it was by choice.

The brash young executive who whipped up an adoring crowd at Jurassic Park way back on the eve of the 2014 playoffs with "Eff Brooklyn" or who rallied the crowd a year later — with NBA commissioner Adam Silver looking on – prior their first-round series against Paul Pierce and the Washington Wizards by shouting "we don’t give a s—t about ‘It’ has long ago toned down the firebrand image.

It wasn’t the warnings from the league or the potential fines, it was that the job had been done. People had paid attention to the little team to the north.

But the boldness hasn’t gone anywhere or the sense of the moment, even as the Raptors profile has grown. Ujiri’s nature is to push, or push back.

It’s why when all the noise swirls around Drake’s sideline antics you will never hear Ujiri question whether or not the club’s biggest celebrity fan is going over the line and will resist any attempts to reel him in – and you just know the NBA has.

Ujiri sees in Drake someone who has the freedom to express the passion the self-made NBA executive feels himself, and if people don’t like it?

‘Eff them.’

Ujiri’s decision to hold a press conference as the opening event for the first NBA Finals outside of the United States proves he’s still got that spirit at heart – not that there was any reason to doubt.

There was no ‘Eff Warriors’ – just a chance to make a presentation about where the Raptors have arrived at after a long and occasionally twisted 24 years.

In case you were wondering, it’s very unusual for a team executive to........

© Sportsnet