On the one hand, we have the Toronto Raptors, a franchise that has been fading progressively into irrelevancy since Vince Carter forced his way out town almost a decade ago. On the other, we have Drake, the biggest thing going in rap – perhaps music outright – whose star only seems to be rising. Talk about entities moving in different directions.
The Raptors are hoping that their city’s prodigal son might help them stop spinning their wheels. According to the Toronto Star, today the Raptors will introduce Drake as a “global ambassador” for the franchise, a role that will see the rapper act as a host, business partner, and consultant with the team. The partnership coincides with the expected official announcement of Toronto as the host city for the 2016 NBA All-Star Game. It’s all part of new MLSE (the company that owns the Raptors) bigwig Tim Leiweke’s plan to rebrand the team’s image ahead of their 20th anniversary season in 2015-16.
Though he’s probably more known for palling around with LeBron and the Heat (and being hilariously denied access to their locker room), Drake can’t help but be a genuine fan of the Raptors. As a proud Torontonian, he’s programmed to root for our sad sack local teams. Plus, who would voluntarily claim the Raptors if they didn’t have to?
Short of rigging the next draft to get Andrew Wiggins (wait, that’s the plan, isn’t it?), can Drake actually help the Raptors? It’s typically not a great sign when the face of your franchise comes from outside of the team itself. A parallel has been made to Jay-Z’s ownership stint with the Nets, but aside from any possible sports agency aspirations on Drake’s end, it’s a thin one.* There’s no new arena. There’s no Brooklyn. There’s certainly no Russian billionaire.
The counterpoint? Well, it can’t really hurt. At this point, another something-less-than-mediocre season will barely register as something Raptors fans can feel. Drake has built some notable relationships with major colleges and NBA players, and there’s a chance he’ll be able to sell Toronto as a welcome landing spot for marquee talent (different sport, but there was much made about OVO
stan supporter Johnny Manziel’s insistence that he stop through T.O. to hang out with Drizzy during the summer). If nothing else, Drake can provide some improved half-time entertainment, no disrespect to Kardinal. Plus, his joint clothing line with the Raptors is bound to be amazing.
* — Though it’s worth noting that Drake does seem to have studied Jay-Z’s extra-musical dealings rather closely.