The bartender recognizes him as a familiar face who drops in now and then — but has no notion of his patron’s role in pushing the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors to the edge of elimination.
That won’t change tonight. He offers no clues to his identity. He doesn’t explain his rocket-like rise from an Orlando Magic intern to the Raptors GM in a little more than a decade. He doesn’t explain how he helped create the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement. He doesn’t tell the story of the covert trip to Lithuania, where discussions of trading for Kawhi Leonard first began. He doesn’t mention that he’s still one of the youngest general managers in the NBA.
Bobby Webster doesn’t mention any of it. He rarely does. To hear him tell it, each accomplishment along his journey has been the result of fortune and collaboration. Besides, he wants no part in accolades.
His rise is one of the great untold stories of calculated fortune in the NBA. But the outside world knows almost nothing about him. Webster’s two-paragraph Wikipedia entry has just five references and no date of birth. By the standards of his station in the modern NBA, Webster is an enigma.
This is by design. He keeps a low-key profile because he prefers to operate in the background without public attention. But he promised his wife he would take part in a story about his life if and when he realized his dream of winning an NBA championship. It happened sooner than he thought.
So here we are.
But behind Ujiri, Webster has watched, learned — and risen to the point of being a key piece of the Raptors NBA championship. Webster will bristle at that description, but it’s true. If Ujiri is the ship captain, Webster is the navigator.
“Bobby is making a lot of the decisions in terms of everything they do,” says one NBA player agent who works closely with the Raptors. “Masai is the lead role and the face of the program, and obviously very involved… but Bobby is the driving force, at least for me, for a lot of the decisions they make.”
When Webster was home in O’ahu over Christmas break in 2014, he scouted at the Diamond Head Classic, an annual NCCA invitational in Honolulu. This time he brought his father to a game between the University of Hawaii and the Wichita State Shockers.
They watched a junior named Fred VanVleet run the floor for the Shockers in a thrilling, one-point overtime win. Webster already had his eye on VanVleet, after he and then-assistant coach Nick Nurse watched him practice earlier that year when Toronto was in Wichita Kansas to play a preseason game. (Nurse was good friends with one of the Shockers’ coaches.)
But Webster won’t take credit for “finding” VanVleet and making him a Raptor — just like he won’t take credit for any of the decisions that look strong in hindsight.
He says everyone in the front office has a crazy story about where and how they first watched Fred play.https://theathletic.com/1436139/?source=twitterhq