Historic moment as Obama graces NBA finals in support of African friend Masai Ujiri

Francis Akhalbey June 03, 2019
Obama being led to the stands by the Toronto Raptors president of basketball operations and the first African executive in the NBA Masai Ujiri -- Photo via @raptors on Instagram

It is not a hidden fact Barack Obama is an avid basketball fan. From his yearly ritual of revealing his NCAA March Madness picks to occasionally shooting some hoops when he makes time, the former U.S. president can definitely stake a claim as someone who is knowledgeable about the game.

Obama is also reported to have a role in the new Basketball Africa League (BAL) set to commence next year. The BAL will consist of twelve teams from countries across the continent including Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia.

“I’ve always loved basketball because it’s about building a team that’s equal to more than the sum of its parts. Glad to see this expansion into Africa because for a rising continent, this can be about a lot more than what happens on the court,” he said about the announcement.

Over the weekend, Obama was in Toronto to attend an event. An ardent fan of the game as he is, he took some time off to watch the game 2 of the NBA finals between the Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors at the Scotiabank Arena on Sunday. The Warriors tied the best-of-seven series at 1 – 1 with a 109 – 104 victory.

Keeping it casual in a leather jacket, Obama was led into the arena by the Toronto Raptors president of basketball operations and the first African executive in the NBA Masai Ujiri, with whom he has a very strong relationship.

Ujiri’s Giants of Africa recently built a basketball court in Alego, Kenya, as part of the Sauti Kuu Foundation Sports, Resource and Vocational Training Centre founded by Barack’s sister Auma Obama.

The project was launched in July last year by Obama during his first visit to Kenya since leaving office.

“She’s a friend and I am almost like a little brother to her too and she’s become a really good partner … it’s something we wanted to do and that’s how it came about. He [Barak Obama] loves basketball and he came to open the basketball court,” Ujiri said about Obama and his sister in an interview with Face2Face Africa about the launch.

During the cause of the game, Obama received a standing ovation coupled with MVP chants.

Prior to the game, Obama on Friday praised both teams for their hard work and style of play.

“Both teams play like teams. So their superstars are unselfish and just want results,” he said, according to The Washington Post. “Lesson Two is both teams draw from talent that is unexpected and international. … If you don’t know where the talent’s going to be, you have to give opportunity to everybody.”


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