Toronto Raptors vice-chairman and president Masai Ujiri’s not-for-profit youth basketball organization Giants of Africa just announced a collaboration with Canada Goose, but the partnership has been years in the making. In fact, Ujiri formed an instant connection with Canada Goose CEO Dani Reis when they first crossed paths. “When I initially arrived in Toronto, he was the first person I connected with, and his genuine character left a lasting impression on me,” says Ujiri.

Founded in 2003, Giants of Africa has been using basketball as a tool to encourage African youth to dream big, on or off the court, says Ujiri. “Growing up playing basketball in Africa was a defining part of my journey,” he says. “Witnessing the sheer talent and passion for sports, even in the face of limited coaching and resources left an impact on me. The untapped potential was so clear.”

For Ujiri, the ultimate goal of Giants of Africa transcends basketball. “Africa has the youngest population on this planet with extraordinary talent across various disciplines–sports, music, fashion, you name it,” he says. “Giants of Africa is our commitment to unlocking this potential. It’s about providing a platform for empowerment, instilling leadership qualities, and fostering impact.”

Now, to celebrate two decades of the organization’s community impact, luxury apparel brand Canada Goose has teamed up with Giants of Africa to drop the reimagined Crofton Vest for Giants of Africa, with 100% of the proceeds from sales of the limited-edition product going to the not-for-profit organization.

Collaborating with a community-focused brand like Canada Goose made perfect sense for Ujiri. “Giants of Africa and Canada Goose both share the same passion to enable people to achieve their dreams by providing them with opportunities for growth and development, because we know that’s how we can make a real and lasting impact on communities in Africa, and around the world,” he says. “We’re excited to launch the first of two collections and continue our work together supporting African youth, but on a larger scale, bringing communities together around the world over their shared love of the sport of basketball.”

Below, we chatted with Ujiri about his relationship to Toronto, the multi-year partnership with Canada Goose and the meaningful work that results from an organization like Giants of Africa.

As president and vice-chairman of the Raptors, you’ve probably spent a good amount of time experiencing our winters. What are some of your favourite places to visit in the city this time of year?

“There’s something special and unique about this city. Every corner I turn, I think of a moment, like my kids being born here, Raptors winning the NBA championship and more unbelievable memories that will forever be etched in my heart and bind me to this remarkable place.”

What’s one of the most rewarding things about representing a city like Toronto?

“If I have to say it in a couple of words, it’s the people. People of Toronto have been unbelievable to me and I appreciate that. I love that about the city, the organization, and ownership. It was not easy for us to win here, but it was important for us to demonstrate that, yes, we can bring home the championship. To have that support from the people is truly special to me. There’s a unique pride in knowing that we’re not just a team with fans; we’re a team that has an entire country behind us. There is no other team in the league that! For me, it’s something that is extraordinary, something I take immense pride in.”

What’s the most meaningful thing you’ve achieved since co-founding GOA?

“Since 2003, Giants of Africa has impacted the lives of over 40,000 African youth across 17 countries. We’ve provided access to more than 30 basketball courts and facilitated 80 basketball camps or clinics, utilizing sports as a catalyst for positive change. Our commitment to building a legacy extends through initiatives like ‘Built Within,’ our foundation’s multi-year project. Launched in 2021, ‘Built Within’ is our promise to invest in sports infrastructure across Africa, aiming to create a total of 100 courts. This past summer marked a historic milestone as we hosted the inaugural Giants of Africa in Kigali, Rwanda. It was an experience that stands out among the many impactful moments I’ve been privileged to be a part of. Bringing together over 230 young men and women from 16 African countries, the week-long celebration was a fusion of basketball, entertainment, culture, and education, commemorating our 20th anniversary.”

Canada Goose

What are your favourite ways to style the vest? What are some of your favourite design features?

“Since I’m always on the go, functionality is critical to me and throwing a lightweight vest on top of a crewneck sweater or turtleneck is a quick and easy way to look and feel put together. It is also why this partnership with Canada Goose was such a natural fit for me, it gives me that perfect balance through effortless looks that I can sport wherever my day takes me. What makes this collaboration truly special is the fusion of our two brands. The anniversary patch, coupled with the choice of colours, inspired by the images we’ve captured over the last twenty years, adds a unique touch, making this item a true reflection of our journey and the stories we’ve told.

Can you tease anything about part two of the Canada Goose/GOA drop?

“Can’t give away too much now! It’s the beginning of an exciting two-year partnership and I’m excited to see the impact we’re able to make together. The 2024 capsule collection is one of my favourites and is close to my heart.”

The limited-edition Canada Goose x Giants of Africa Crofton Vest is exclusively available at the Canada Goose Toronto Eaton Centre store starting Dec. 4. Keep an eye out for the full FW24 capsule collection, launching in spring 2024.