If you read Grantland’s NBA contributor Zach Lowe (if you don’t, I’m selfless enough to tell you to stop reading this right now and go familiarize yourself with his work, it’s consistently exceptional), you’d know that over the past few months he’s, in a tongue-and-cheek manner, been calling the Toronto Raptors the Toronto Drakes. If you’re unfamiliar with Drake, I’m not sure what to tell you – get out from under the Rock of Gibraltar you’ve been living under. I loved Lowe’s humor, calling Toronto the Drakes, because although it’s purely sarcastic, there’s more than meets the eye here.
A few months back the Raptors named Drake as an official team ambassador to expand the global reach the of the team, popularize the Raptors. It’s always amazed me that the fourth largest city in North America needs help marketing a major professional sports team as more readily recognizable, but they do. They always have, with the exception of the Vince Carter era. The Carter era was glamorous, yet deceitful – the highs were high, and the lows were low. Undeniably, however, Vince Carter deserves the credit for securely rooting the Raptors franchise in Toronto, because there’s a tendency to forget that upon uncovering the details of his forceful departure.
Upon that departure, the Raptors have struggled mightily to remain relevant in non-basketball centric circles, the off-the-court conversation of the team. Arguably, they have struggled just as much with fielding an on-court product to exude a ‘rally-around-the-team’ effect for the fans, but we’ll leave that topic for another day. Toronto is a great city, as I can attest to having spent my past two summer’s living there. Toronto should have the prestige as a franchise, and a city, that New York, Boston, Miami, Chicago, and L.A. all maintain (and rightfully so), but alas, Toronto falls into a second tier.
In my opinion, collaborating with Drake is the best decision the franchise has ever made. Because, say Toronto develops or drafts players with the captivating panache like Carter once brought, and is then able to at least be in the discussion for recruiting marquee free agents. Who better to have representing your team than arguably the biggest name in hip-hop? A guy that not only has reached global acclaim, but CONSTANTLY puts on for Toronto as a city. There’s no bigger supporter of Toronto than Drake.
This isn’t an issue about whether you support Drake’s music or not. Or whether you particularly enjoy his music. Distance yourself from that aspect, especially if you’re a Raptor fan reading this. Because while his music is what’s made him an important name, it’s about Drake the person, and what he’s willing to commit to better the Toronto Raptors franchise. Kanye West doesn’t represent the Chicago Bulls, Eminem isn’t an ambassador for the Detroit Pistons, nor should they have to be. They have no obligation of the sort, and that’s the point — neither does Drake.
If it isn’t clear, yes, I do like Drake’s music. Far from my favorite artist, but I do listen to Drake. What he’s doing with the Raptors doesn’t change my opinion of his music one iota; it’s made me respect him as a person for trying to become a part of something that nobody else from Toronto has had the courage to do. We can have ideological differences on what his lifestyle entails and portrays, and whether that has ramifications or not, that’s fair.
But having grown up in a social media age, and witnessing the accessibility increase in a celebrities’ (hip-hop or not) 24/7 non-stop lifestyle, I commend Drake for embracing the power. In this instance, utilizing it in a way that’s not superficially charged. It’s easy to say that what Drake’s doing with the Raptors is most practical for his ‘brand’ or whatever you want to call it. I don’t see it that way. The risk is entirely Drake’s.
He stands a lot to gain, of course, but the Raptors owe nothing to Drake, he didn’t buy a portion of ownership like Brooklyn native Jay-Z did. Drake’s affiliation with the Raptors rides on Drake’s persistent ambition to become a business entrepreneur. Watch, he’s making music now, but what happens when he gets into acting? He’s brilliantly engineered possible methods to blossom into a Will Smith-like career, and being with the Raptors has little to do with any of that.
Drake wants his city to be cool again, because the city is cool. The people are great. The mayor is kind of a nut-job, but hey, the world isn’t flawless. Besides, would you rather have Justin Bieber as an ambassador of the Toronto Raptors? Rhetorical question. So thank Drake now, because he’s not even asking for one.