In a move that was announced several weeks ago the Toronto Raptors and Toronto native/Rapper Drake have partnered up as Drake has been dubbed “Global Ambassador” for the organization. As a global ambassador to the team the Toronto based artist will play a major role not only in the teams branding, marketing and just overall image but he will also play a major role for the city of Toronto as they are set to host the NBA all-star game in 2016.
Over the course of history in Toronto many star players such as Tracy Mcgrady, Chris Bosh and most notably Vince Carter have left the Raptors to go chase greater success in other cities. It has been incredibly hard to not only keep premier talent in a Raptors jersey but it has been even more difficult enticing big name free agents to come play in Toronto.
The team has been mired in mediocrity for much of its history since 1995. The exception to this rule comes in the form of Vince Carter who led the team to 3 straight playoff appearances and is looked upon as the guy responsible for the “Golden Era” of Toronto basketball. After he left it became apparent that although Toronto is a great city to play in that the organization isn't as strong as it needs to be for the Raptors to be an elite or even above average franchise in terms of on court success.
That’s where Drake comes into play he was a kid who grew up in Toronto during the Vince Carter years and was rather captivated by “Vinsanity”. A few weeks ago he spoke on his memories from theVince Carter years saying enthusiastically “My memories all stem from the Vince Carter era. It was an amazing feeling to have a player of that magnitude here- a star. I remember the first time I saw him in a music video, that was like the first time sports and music crossed over and I saw him featured in like a big music video. I was like man we really have a star player that people want to put in videos.”. As you can see this is far more then just a business move for the Canadian MC. “I want people to be proud and patriotic about supporting this team”.
For the first time in franchise history the Raptors have someone working for them who has an emotional interest in the team as well as a business interest. This team has a well established fan base who despite having a team that hasn't won 35 games or more since the 2009-10 season (40 wins) still ranked 13th in attendance the league just last season averaging 18,144 fans per game which means that 91% of the Air Canada Centre was full last season and that’s with a losing team. What if they were a consistent winner? That's where Drake comes in.
When it comes to luring big name free agents to come play for your franchise every team has people they bring in to sway the minds of the NBA's elite free agents. The Lakers have Magic and Kareem, The Rockets have Hakeem Olajuwon,The Heat have Pat Riley and Alonzo Mourning. Well now the Raptors have a guy in Drake who 1. is influential to pretty much every player in the league due to his stature in the rap game and 2. is a Toronto native and can sell players on the idea of playing there,living there and winning there. He could speak about what the city was like when Vince Carter had the team in the playoffs and the Raptors were setting NBA attendance records. Few people with the stature of a guy like Drake are as qualified to speak about what Toronto was like when the Raptors were winning and what it could be like if the Raptors win at an even higher level than before.
Remember when the then New Jersey Nets were the laughing stock of the NBA? That seems like a very long time ago but in actuality it was 2-3 years ago that they were in New Jersey and as irrelevant as can be. Enter in Jay-Z who is responsible for orchestrating most of if not all the business moves as far as branding and selling a new vision for the team. Fast forward to where we are at now in 2013 and the Brooklyn Nets are now a team with marquee players all over the floor with guys such as Deron Williams,Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. I'm not saying the result will be the same but Drake certainly has a lot more to work with in Toronto then Jay-Z did when he first started working with the Nets.
Last season the Raptors acquired Rudy Gay from the Memphis Grizzlies and in a 98-73 blowout win over the Clippers in his debut an electric Air Canada Centre rain down chants of “RUDY,RUDY,RUDY”. Electricity was in the building that hadn't been there in years. The Raptors went 34-48 and finished tied for last in the Atlantic division with the Philadelphia 76ers but this team does have some pieces to work with.
2013-2014 Projected Starting 5
As you can see the Raptors boast a solid starting lineup this season but its the bench additions that make this team better heading into this season. They Brought in Steve Novak from the Knicks who shot 42% from the 3-point line just last season. They also added Tyler Hansbrough who played a big role in the Pacers success over the last season he will certainly provide some much needed toughness and a guy who fears nobody. A return to this playoffs this year is not out of the question for this team but Drake has bigger plans.
3-6 years from now will be interesting to see where the current state of Toronto Raptors is. Will they be the kind of team people flock to see or the same ole mediocre team we have grown to not pay attention to most of the time? Only time will tell but now that he works for them I would expect some mentions of the Raptors in some upcoming songs. Drake has lots of work to do along with the newly revamped front office but the goal is simple - Make the Raptors a winner.