SIMMONS: The 50 most influential Toronto sporting figures of the past 50 years
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2. Masai Ujiri
On the day he was hired by the Raptors, Ujiri was asked a question: Why leave a sound NBA team in Denver for a bottom feeder in Toronto? His answer was clear and definitive: He wanted to bring a championship to Toronto and to Canada. He promised it. It’s the kind of thing everybody says on the day they get hired. But in Ujiri’s case, it was the kind of thing he delivered in spectacular fashion. Ujiri has made more than his mark in Toronto — he’s made his mark on the world. He is part-team president, the former general manager, full-time advocate for opportunities in Africa, full-time spokesman on social issues that matter, and a voice for Black Lives Matter. It took a giant of Africa to fire the NBA coach of the year in Dwane Casey and trade the self-proclaimed Mr. Toronto, DeMar DeRozan, for Kawhi Leonard. He has a ring today because of that — and we have memories for a lifetime.
1. Pat Gillick and Paul Beeston
For the Blue Jays to become the model franchise in baseball, Pat Gillick needed Paul Beeston, and Beeston needed Gillick. They were the Frick and Frack of the Jays. One was the baseball man, one was the money man, and every once in a while they reversed roles. They were the near-perfect front office team of general manager and club president for the expansion Blue Jays who grew into the contending Jays, then World Series champion Jays. In an amazing 11-season period, from 1983 to 1993, Gillick and Beeston’s Jays averaged 91 wins, making the playoffs five times, and winning the World Series twice. The club would go 20 seasons afterward before winning as many as 90 games again.
CONSIDERED, BUT NOT SELECTED:
Tony Fernandez, Elvis Stojko, Ben Johnson, Edwin Encarnacion, Penny Oleksiak, Andre De Grasse, Jack Armstrong, Chuck Swirsky, The Red Patch Boys, Curtis Joseph, Mitch Marner, John Gardiner, Bryan Colangelo, Roger Neilson, Jim Gregory, David Branch, Marnie McBean, Fran Rider, Stacey Allaster, Keith Pelley, Damon Allen, Jack Tunney, Ricky Ray, Sandy Hawley, Mike McCarthy, Sandra Post, Jozy Altidore, Irving Ungerman, Michael Bradley, Condredge Holloway, Scott Goodyear, Milos Raonic, Bob Elliott and Bob McKenzie.