On the Shoulders of Giants
Masai Ujiri’s foundation, Giants of Africa, teaches youth valuable life skills. Show your support with a limited-edition T-shirt inspired by Nelson Mandela, exclusively at Harry Rosen.
Summer may be pro basketball’s off-season, but not for Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri. “Now is the time I can work,” he says. Every August, he returns to Nigeria, where he grew up, and the basketball camps run by his foundation, Giants of Africa. For four days at a time, up to 100 teenagers will learn basketball fundamentals and life skills. “I’m going eight in the morning till seven at night,” Ujiri says. “I love it.”
The boys in camp (it is mostly boys, although GOA has welcomed female players too) all expect to play in the NBA. “They don’t think of doing other things,” Ujiri says. “Not yet.” He believes the camps should introduce them to other options in sport—such as sports law and journalism, administration, physiotherapy and training—even if they don’t seem to notice.
“One of the best things we do is divide them into groups to create a team chant,” he says. The exercise brings the shy kids out, helps everyone communicate on court, and coheres strangers into a team. “I don’t want to call it a transformation, but all of them are opening up.”
“More leaders in our society should attach themselves to outstanding endeavours like that,” says Jason Green, managing director of Harry Rosen’s Bloor Street location in Toronto. Last year, he and Ujiri were chatting about Giants of Africa’s 15th anniversary and the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth, both happening in 2018. Mandela, a personal hero for Ujiri, used the power of sports to unify and transform communities. Green suggested a partnership with Harry Rosen, “something meaningful we could do for Masai and Giants.”
To celebrate Mandela and support Giants of Africa, Harry Rosen is launching a line of four limited-edition fundraising T-shirts under Mandela’s clan name, “Madiba”—a term of high respect. Three shirts feature basketball photography from Giants of Africa trips to Nigeria and Kenya; the fourth uses the organization’s bold, graphic logo. Look for them in Harry Rosen stores this fall and help Giants of Africa empower young people across the continent.