In the span of a year, rapper Drake has gone from a fairweather Toronto Raptors supporter to a major force within the NBA. Here’s a timeline of the Drake’s partnership with his hometown team.
Feb. 16, 2013: He comes out in support of the Raptors
Drake celebrated with Terrence Ross when he won the 2013 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest. This was Drake’s coming out as a Raptors supporter. Some fans met this with skepticism, because Drake had been spotted courtside at Miami Heat games. The platinum-selling recording artist tried—and failed—to get into the Heat locker room after they won Game 7 of the NBA Finals last season. Drake got the last laugh (plus pizza) as he partied with the champions later that night.
Sept. 30, 2013: Drake goes global
The Toronto Raptors named Drake the global ambassador on Sept. 30, 2013. That seemed to be a bigger deal to most people even than the announcement that Toronto will host the first-ever All-Star Weekend in 2016. Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, said the rapper would help rebrand the Raptors over the next two years. Still, people weren’t really sure what Drake’s role would be. Is this simply a PR move to distract from the team’s performance or will Drake make his mark on the Raptors?
Oct. 30, 2013: Drake’s the opening act
Fans attending opening night against the Boston Celtics were treated to a video montage over Drake’s “Hold on We’re Going Home.” Throughout the season the Raptors have alternated Drake songs in their introduction videos, using “Started from the Bottom” as well as “I’m Still Fly.” You will not attend a Raptors home game that is devoid of Drake’s music. The rapper has solidified his inclusion in the franchise, further evidenced by a pair of courtside seats labelled “Drake.”
Dec. 30, 2013: The rapper is enlisted to give the Raps a new look
Leiweke said Drake is “the guy who’s going to change the logo” in the fourth episode of Open Gym. When Drawe was hired last December, the Raptors announced they are working with him to design a new logo and colours for the franchise. The team is considering adopting Drake’s black and gold colour scheme. Why not change the team name to the Toronto Drakes while we’re at it? Of all the concepts on the table, Drake’s is now the leading contender, according to the Toronto Sun. Whatever the decision, the changes will be applied prior to the 2015-2016 season.
Jan. 11, 2014: Drake Night
Jan. 12, 2014: Drizzy demonstrates his drawing power
MLSE (the company that owns the Raps) pulled out all the stops last month trying to recruit English soccer star Jermain Defoe to its Major League Soccer team, Toronto FC. MLSE had Drake call Defoe over the phone during negotiations. “I think that all I did is just give him the necessary information that he needed about a city that he didn’t know much about,” Drake told the Canadian Press. Drake made a lasting impression on Defoe, who called the phone call special. “As a musician, Drake is someone who is up there with the greatest in the world,” Defoe gushed to MLSsoccer.com, “He is a special person and I respect him highly.” Suddenly, fans are aware of Drake’s ability to convince talent to play in Toronto.
Much has been speculated about Drake’s ability to recruit talent. Many NBA players consider themselves fans of his. Detroit Pistons guard Brandon Jennings is among the diehards—he bought nine copies of Drake’s Take Care album, rocks OVO hoodies and spends his leisure time tweeting Drizzy lyrics. Damian Lillard recently told Grantland that if he could celebrate with any artist in the locker room after winning the championship, he’d choose Drake. He also attends Drake’s concerts and compared his life to a Drake song. That’s all dandy, but is an NBA player’s admiration or even friendship with Drake enough to get him to sign with Toronto? A reporter asked LeBron on All-Star media day.
That’s a bummer, but an isolated one. The majority of players in the NBA would not label themselves as “unrecruitable.” For now, Drake continues to breathe Raptors and represent the brand. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone about his rise in hip-hop, Drake used a Raptors feat as an analogy for his own success. “The other night, one of my good friends, Terrence Ross, scored, like, 51 points for the Raptors. People were going crazy, rejoicing: ‘This guy is up next!’” Drake said. “I was that guy at one point—refreshing and new and people wanted me to win.”
Drake’s winning in more ways than one. This off-season, the Raptors will find out whether Drake’s success translates into recruitment. If it doesn’t, people shouldn’t get too worked up. After all, Drake was originally hired to provide input on the team’s logo and colours. He’s already taken care of that and more.