Inspired by the NFL Warning series by Robert Mays at Grantland, the NBA Warning series is exactly what you think it is: tackling certain individuals, storylines and trends to look forward to as we count down the days until the start of the 2013-14 NBA season.
A few important items on the Raptors over the past week. First, the 2016 All-Star Game is coming to Toronto which means Blake Griffin dunking over Rob Ford perhaps sitting in a getaway KIA for promotional purposes is in play. Second, it will be announced today that the team is partnering with Drake to have him act as a business partner and consultant for the team.
The responsibilities of his role will include a clothing line collaboration with the team, the host of the forthcoming All-Star game, and, well, I’m not sure the details of his role really matter. It’s the mere association of the successful rapper with the mediocre franchise that is important here.
I did a quick mental scroll through the franchise’s history and there’s really not too many former players who could have filled into this role. From Damon Stoudamire (the stink from the Isiah Thomas era; bad ending), Tracy McGrady (too short of a stay in Toronto; bad ending), Vince Carter (actually could work), Alvin Williams (not enough star power; team cut ties in the off-season) to Chris Bosh (lack of success; bad ending), the list is not long or very realistic.
Celebrity-wise, Drake makes sense, because he provides credibility, if only for even the simplest facts that he has front row seats at All-Star games and is exclusive enough to hang out with LeBron. These things may sound trivial, but it matters. And besides, I couldn’t even make it to five people on my list of celebrities who could do this and Chad Kroeger was already on it. So yeah, if you’re going to fill this role, it’s hard to argue against Drake.
But as Bruce Arthur put it in his column, this is just mere window dressing for a team that is approaching its 20th anniversary with a resume of very limited success. Put it this way, the Raptors have more Slam Dunk Contest champions (two) than playoff series wins (one). With the hiring of Tim Leiweke in the off-season, the franchise is attempting to build something that they have rarely had — especially now — since joining the league: credibility.
Be it Leiweke’s history of success, Masai Ujiri’s Executive Of The Year status or this partnership with Drake, all of these things are driving towards the same thing, to wipe the slate clean (once again) for this franchise to they can position themselves to be more than just that other team that plays in Canada.
Except of course, the history and reputation of these people will matter very little — just as the people that came before them, remember it was not long ago that Isiah Thomas arrived with the reputation of an all-time great player, or Bryan Colangelo as the genius architect behind the Seven Seconds Or Less Suns — unless the product improves on the court.
So there’s no risk in partnering with Drake, except that the fact that this is news shows just where the franchise is positioned at the moment. The only collateral damage may be some terrible clothing line, or a Drake versus Wale feud that no one wants. That’s a small trade-off for some much welcomed positive publicity. But when All-Star game finally arrives in several years, if all we’re celebrating is the unofficial host of the city, it’ll mean that everything is still the same with this team.