Masai Ujiri Could Be Charged in Altercation After Raptors’ Title Win, Authorities Say

Masai Ujiri, the president of basketball operations and general manager of the Toronto Raptors, may be charged with assault after an altercation with a California sheriff’s deputy late Thursday, shortly after his team won Game 6 of the N.B.A. finals, the authorities said on Friday.

The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office said that it would pursue misdemeanor assault charges against Mr. Ujiri, one of the N.B.A.’s most celebrated front-office executives.

The incident is said to have occurred at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., moments after the Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors to give Canada its first N.B.A. championship.

Mr. Ujiri made his way to the court to join the celebrating team, but an Alameda County sheriff’s deputy stopped him because he did not have the proper credentials, said Sgt. Ray Kelly, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office.

The deputy was not aware that Mr. Ujiri was a high-ranking team executive until after the altercation, Sergeant Kelly said.

The sheriff’s office said that Mr. Ujiri tried to push the deputy out of the way. After several shoves back and forth, Mr. Ujiri struck the deputy’s face, according to Sergeant Kelly.

At that point, several others pulled Mr. Ujiri away from the deputy and onto the court.

Journalists posted videos that caught the end of the incident, showing a man pleading with deputies to allow Mr. Ujiri to pass.

Mr. Ujiri was not arrested at the arena. “Instead of creating a more significant incident at this international postgame event, we decided to take the high road and cease and desist,” Sergeant Kelly said.

“What we’re now doing is compiling witness statements and video body cam evidence to submit to the D.A. next week for review,” he added. “It’s up to the D.A. to file charges for misdemeanor assault on a police officer.”

Greg Wiener, a 61-year-old Warriors fan and season ticket holder, told The Associated Press that he witnessed the encounter and did not see Mr. Ujiri strike the deputy in the face. Mr. Wiener said the deputy did not ask for credentials before putting his hand on Mr. Ujiri’s chest and pushing him, at which point Mr. Ujiri shoved back before bystanders intervened, The A.P. reported.

Sergeant Kelly said that security had been heightened because it was the Warriors’ last game at Oracle Arena before the team moves to San Francisco.

“We were told by the N.B.A. and security officials to strictly enforce the credential policy,” Sergeant Kelly said.

The Raptors’ path to the championship was largely orchestrated by Mr. Ujiri, who is Nigerian and one of the few black general managers in a league dominated by black players but largely controlled by white team owners and front-office executives. Mr. Ujiri won the N.B.A.’s executive of the year award in 2013 when he was with the Denver Nuggets.

“We are in contact with the Raptors and local authorities and in the process of gathering more information,” Michael Bass, an N.B.A. spokesman, said on Friday.

The Raptors could not be reached for comment. The Oakland Police Department said it was also investigating the matter.

With Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors Find Success That Endures

TORONTO — Twenty-four seasons, 1,920 regular-season games, 18 playoff series, 99 playoff games.

It took until the 100th postseason game in franchise history, but the Toronto Raptors clinched their first N.B.A. finals appearance with a 100-96 victory on their home floor against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday, winning the Eastern Conference finals in six games.

Success has been fleeting for the only remaining N.B.A. franchise in Canada. Toronto’s first draft pick, Damon Stoudamire in 1995, won the Rookie of the Year Award but demanded a trade and was in Portland before the end of his third season.

Vince Carter gave the Raptors their first taste of national attention, with his jaw-dropping performance at the 2000 slam dunk contest during All-Star weekend and a playoff duel with Allen Iverson a year later. But in 2004, he, too, demanded a trade and ended a golden era before it even started.

Chris Bosh was the next superstar in line, but he managed just two first-round exits in his seven seasons with the Raptors, before he left in free agency in 2010 to join LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami.


Damon Stoudamire was the first draft pick of the Toronto Raptors after they joined the league in 1995, but he was gone before the end of his third season.CreditJohn Lehmann/Associated Press

DeMar DeRozan blossomed into a star during his nine years with the team, but Masai Ujiri, the president of the Raptors, grew tired of the team’s annual playoff flameouts, and last summer traded DeRozan, the one player who had declared his desire to remain a Toronto Raptor for life.

That trade sent a stunned DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs for the quiet and talented Kawhi Leonard, who was one year away from free agency.

He was a considerable risk for Toronto. But he also gave the Raptors exactly what they needed in an Eastern Conference finally freed from the dominance of James, who had joined the Los Angeles Lakers: a two-way superstar capable of being the best player in any playoff series.

The trade has been validated in every way during Leonard’s historic postseason run, which gave the N.B.A. its first Game 7 series-clinching buzzer beater, against the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round. He is already third among the franchise’s career postseason scorers, trailing only DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. Leonard has 11 games of at least 30 points in this postseason.


Vince Carter electrified the N.B.A. with his rim-hanging dunk during the 2000 All-Star weekend, but he disappointed Toronto fans by asking to be traded.CreditJohn Mabanglo/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

He is a dominant scorer, but his all-around game has also been on display. The Raptors won the last four games of their series against the Bucks after Toronto Coach Nick Nurse made Leonard the primary defender against Giannis Antetokounmpo in Game 3. In Game 5 on Thursday, Leonard notched a career-high nine assists to go with 35 points in a road victory. On Saturday, with an N.B.A. finals berth at stake, Leonard grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds and added 27 points, punctuating his claim for best player in the playoffs with a thunderous one-handed slam over Antetokounmpo in the fourth quarter.

After Game 2, the Bucks were two wins away from an Eastern Conference championship, and were 10-1 in the postseason following 60 wins in the regular season. In four games, Leonard erased Milwaukee’s magical season by being the best player on both ends of the floor. In a single playoff run, Leonard has delivered more memorable moments for the Raptors than anyone in the 24-year history of the franchise.

On media day in September at the start of the season, after the formal introduction of Leonard in a Raptors uniform, Ujiri became frustrated with reporters who kept wondering whether Toronto was perceived in N.B.A. circles as a team and a city capable of persuading a superstar of Leonard’s caliber to stay long term.

“We have nothing to apologize about,” Ujiri said. “This is a beautiful city. We are blessed to be one of the N.B.A. teams, one that’s not in America. I can’t believe a beautiful city like this would not believe in itself.”


DeMar DeRozan, right, was the one Toronto superstar who wanted to stay, but the Raptors traded him last summer for Kawhi Leonard, separating him from his best friend Kyle Lowry, left, and an adoring fan base.CreditFrank Gunn/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press

On Saturday, eight months after their partnership officially started, Ujiri stood next to Leonard as they accepted the Eastern Conference championship trophy in front of their home fans.

“Kawhi is the best player in the world, and we are happy that he is in Toronto,” Ujiri said.

Shortly after the trophy presentation, Leonard said: “I don’t care about being the best player. I want to be the best team.”

After years of trying to break through, the Raptors can now call themselves the best team in the Eastern Conference. They are four wins away from a championship, and on Thursday the N.B.A. finals will start in Canada for the first time in league history.

Saturday’s win was an unburdening of two and a half decades of frustration for a fan base that has continued to grow as the popularity of basketball in Canada has risen. Two other major sports franchises in the city are in the midst of championship droughts. The Toronto Blue Jays haven’t won the World Series since 1993. The Toronto Maple Leafs last won the Stanley Cup in 1967.

The Raptors have a chance to make history for not just the franchise, but for the city of Toronto. For the first time, the fan base doesn’t have to wallow in the past or wonder about the uncertain future of Leonard’s free agency decision. It can live in the present, rooting for a team that has shown what can be.

Leonard’s postseason run will be talked about in Toronto for decades to come. Perhaps there’s still one more chapter left to be written, starting Thursday at home against the Golden State Warriors.