That’s what was in evidence, Monday as the Raptors announced they had secured both the 2016 NBA All-Star game and the services of music star Drake as their Global Ambassador.
By necessity, the press conference was short on specifics. Drake and his sidekick Future – one word identities, Shaq, LeBron, Kobe, have long been an NBA staple – and the Raptors are just getting acquainted and his role is an evolving picture. Being one of the top music stars in the world makes it impossible to quantify just how much time can be spent on one project.
The All-Star Game itself is three years away.
So why was there an unofficial record for media attending the press conference?
Ah, that would be Drake. So great is his fame that the person beside him on the dais, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, long a media lightning rod, wasn’t tendered a single question.
For the Raptors, the announcement is a line in the sand that not only reinforces the club’s relevance at the league level but trumpets the team’s fresh start under new GM Masai Ujiri.
“This isn’t just about the NBA,” said MLSE CEO Tim Leiweke. “This isn’t just about the 2016 All-Star Game. This is about the Raptors. It’s a new day, it’s a new age and under Masai’s leadership and vision there is a reason that this club in the last month has led the NBA in season ticket sales.”
Leiweke confirmed the team would be continued to be known as the Raptors. Everything else, he said, is up in the air and Drake will be a player in that evolution.
“Drake will be an ambassador and help us forge this new vision, this new buzz, this new excitement for where we are taking this organization,” he said. “This is a team and this is a sport that is going to rock this city going forward.”
“At this point, like Tim mentioned, on some of the rebranding aspects, I want to be as involved as possible,” Drake said. “Anything they need me for, anything that will help the Raptors grow, the sky’s the limit.”
There’s no doubt that Drake is Toronto’s, maybe even the country’s, most effective and influential ambassador. The week-long All-Star festivities, he said, will showcase the elements that make the city so unique.”
“Our demeanour, the way that we move when we’re anywhere else, Europe or in the States, it’s just a little different,” he said. “There’s something genuine about this city. Something great.”
“Drake wants it to be a celebration of Toronto, not just about basketball, not just about sports, not just about music,” Leiweke said. “We’re already talking about fashion, films, food, all of the things we all know that are really the trademark of this great city.”
As for whether Drake will be able to use his status as a friend and confidant to some of the game’s top players to lure free agents north of the border…well that’s a question for another day.
What will be fascinating is whether a global music star who is also a relentlessly ambitious businessman can help build a winner on the court.
Ujiri, who faces the task of cobbling a new team together over the next few years, underscores the importance of reversing the Raptors fortunes by the time the big stars roll in.
“We feel like we’re moving in the right direction,” he said. “It’s very, very important to us to have basketball successful while the All-Stars are here.”