Drake x Toronto Raptors

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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?

 

Photo: Chicks With Guns Magazine/Cole Lundstrom/Creative Commons


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.”

 

Photo: Dead Dilly


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.

 

Photo: Drake/Instagram


Jan. 11, 2014: Drake Night

January 11 was Drake Night at the Air Canada Centre. A sold-out crowd came to see Drake while an NBA basketball game was played in the background. Drake announced the starting lineup for the Raptors as they marched out to meet their Atlantic Division foes, the Brooklyn Nets, adding some of his own flavour to the player descriptions. During halftime, the majority of the crowd stayed put to watch Drake’s DJ, Future the Prince, perform during the intermission. Many fans hoped Drake would perform. What could have given them that impression?
 
Drake Night attendees received free long-sleeved black and gold T-shirts with the old Raptors logo on the front and Drake’s OVO owl on the back. Entrepreneurial fans sold their shirts online for over $100—despite them being given out for free with the purchase of seats in the brand new Drake 416 Zone (formerly sections 113 and 114 at the ACC). The hip-hop artist also gave away two pairs of limited edition Drake Air Jordans that night. One pair netted a winning bid of $100,000 on eBay, the other a paltry $30,000. It turned out the handsome bids were too good to be true. One of the sellers estimated the actual value of the shoes to be around $4,000.
 
Photo: Stanislav Vedmid/Creative Commons

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.

 

Photo: Still image from video/TNT Sports

Feb. 15, 2014: He becomes the ultimate wingman 
A year after posing with Raptors swingman Terrence Ross beside the player’s 2013 Sprite Slam Dunk trophy, the pair teamed up on the 2014 All-Star Saturday night in New Orleans. In the battle round, the defending dunk champion did his best Muhammad Ali impression. He strolled onto the court with both Drake and the trophy as “The Champ Is Here” played in the background. The rapper stood under the rim with his right arm stretched out. Going in for a monster jam, Ross snatched the ball from Drake’s hand, put it between his legs and threw it down with his right hand. Ross, with the assist from Drizzy, won the battle over Damian Lillard. NBA legend and dunk contest judge Julius Erving described it as “the perfect dunk.”
 
Photo: Amir Johnson/Instagram
 
Now: Some of Drake’s biggest fans play in the NBA

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.”

Moving forward
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.

 

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