Toronto Raptors hire Drake as team ambassador
by Tyler Munro
September 30, 2013
In a rare interview with the Globe and Mail, Drake told writer Josh O’Kane he was looking for that big pay cheque, so it’s fitting that his next move places him in the footsteps of hip-hop’s second richest earner.
Lots can be said of Jay-Z’s former stake in the New Jersey, then Brooklyn Nets. He was barely an owner as far as financials go, possessing a percentage smaller than one, but as an ambassador, his influence was unquestionable. From the herringbone court at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center to the all-out ruining of NBA 2K13, it didn’t matter how much less Hova owned than Mikhail Prokhorov—his legacy was the brand. In New York, Jay-Z was a face. A name. He was a consultant for sure, but more than the Brooklyn Knight, a mascot. Before selling his stake to new coach Jason Kidd, Jay-Z (and wife Beyoncé) were the team’s most noticeable cheering section. Their courtside season seats endeared them to fans and made all eyes draw to the team’s new stadium. They eschewed the press box, played it up for the fans and acted as much as Jack Nicholson to the Lakers as Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment to Toronto’s teams.
And that’s what Drake can do.
Like Brooklyn, Toronto’s just secured itself a future host of an NBA All Star weekend (2016). And earlier today, the Raptors confirmed what we’d already heard: that Drake’s been brought in as the team’s official ambassador.
Through the years Drake’s OVO Fest has capitalized on the city’s Caribana connection by enticing even more NBAers than usual to pop through town. From Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett to Brandon Jennings and Amir Johnson, Drake’s helped make Toronto an off season destination for more than just Raptors players. And in bringing him to the team in an official capacity, Tim Leiweke is hoping he can do the same with free agents. Ultimately, players want to win. Toronto is a great stop on the road for many athletes, who like Paul Pierce often call it their favorite place to visit. But like Jay-Z, Drake needs to convince them it’s cool in season, too. Bryan Colangelo is gone and with him the memories of Hedo Turkoglu’s hangovers and Andrea Bargnani’s hair gel. Now is Toronto’s time for sleek, swag and champagne.
Still, it’ll take work. Drake’s expected to help Leweike with his two-year rebranding plan, but getting involved is an investment on his part. He’ll probably need to stop trying to force his way into other team’s locker rooms for starters, and any input he gives needs to be less about October’s Very Own and more about the city he clearly loves and the team he grew up on. The result could lead to that $200 million pay-day. Nobody’s definitively sure what Drake’s role will be even after this morning’s press conference, but as the Nothing Was the Same singer said, “the sky’s the limit,” and according to Leiweke, he’s off to one hell of a start.
“He’s smarter than Jay-Z, he didn’t have to write a check,” he said.