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Underground Kings no more, Raptors bring in Drake to help rebrand franchise

Sep 30, 2013, 12:04 PM EDT

Drake AP

When the Nets moved to Brooklyn and were looking to rebrand the franchise — new logo, new look, new attitude — and let’s be honest, the white guys in Brooks Brothers suits are not the best at knowing what the common fan wants. So the Nets turned to rapper Jay Z, who owned a sliver of the team (less than 1 percent) but had a big say in the look of the uniforms and some of the amenities inside the Barclay’s Center.

The Raptors are doing much the same thing with Toronto native Drake — they don’t want to be “Underground Kings” they want to be in the spotlight.

Rebranding is coming to Toronto and Drake is going to have a hand in that.

“There’s a reason why we are going to submit to the league a new application for a new branding, a new image, new colors — not a new name, but new branding, and Drake will be an ambassador and help us forge this new vision, this new buzz, this new excitement where we are taking this organization,” said Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (which owns the Raptors) CEO Tim Leiweke at a press conference Monday announcing Toronto would host the 2016 All-Star Game.

Drake will be the Raptors’ “global ambassador.” Whatever that means, exactly. He certainly is a big NBA fan, friend of star players such as LeBron James, and a guy you can see at games around the league all the time. He he will certainly have a hand in the rebranding process, as well as helping make the 2016 All-Star Game a celebration of Toronto.

“I just want you to know I’m extremely excited to be part of a team I grew up a fan of, a diehard fan of, of course I’m sure like everybody else from this city,” Drake said. “I’m excited for the new vision, basketball in Canada is bigger now than ever before. I think that All-Star 2016 is a phenomenal step, something I dreamed of as a kid.”

He said he would be happy to help recruit players. That’s nice. What really gets free agents to come to a city is money — GM Masai Ujiri has to create both cap space to get them and a culture where they think they can win. If that’s in place, a phone call from Drake doesn’t hurt.

The Raptors have already submitted some paperwork with the league and have a firm hired to help with the rebranding, Leiweke said. This likely would kick in for the 2015-16 season — in time for the All-Star Game.

There had been some talk the Raptors name — picked 20 years ago when the “Jurassic Park” movie franchise was huge — could change as there were never any velociraptor anywhere near Canada. Nope. The name stays.

But a new look is part of the image makeover the franchise could use. While Drake has his detractors as a rapper — watch the comments on this post, just mention Drake and the comments become a debate about him — he’s a better choice to upgrade the image than the guys and gals in suits with their focus groups and spread sheets.

“We have been meeting with Drake for a while now to talk about the involvement they want to have. This isn’t just about the NBA, it isn’t just about the 2016 All-Star Game, this is about the Raptors. This is a new day, a new age,” Leiweke said.

  1. money2long - Sep 30, 2013 at 12:20 PM

    started from the bottom now he’s there

  2. halfbaht - Sep 30, 2013 at 12:22 PM

    i for one am glad they won’t be changing the name. maybe it’s because i’m from that era, but i like the name raptors. who cares if there’s never been one near toronto, i’m sure there’s never been a cavalier in cleveland or a bull in chicago and there certainly aren’t any lakes in la

  3. danielgmz - Sep 30, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    I really don’t buy into this ‘Drake loves the raptors’
    He has openly said a lot of times he loves the Miami Heat, he partied with them when they were champions.
    Heck, he even said they were the best team ever when 2k11 was being promoted.
    He always talks about living and partying in Miami…
    I don’t think that’s the kind of culture you want to establish .

  4. nygdriveforfive - Sep 30, 2013 at 12:33 PM

    Look I get it, the Raptors struggle to attract and keep talent. I get Canada is cold (though Toronto is not that cold in winter). I get the connection between hiphop and bball. As long as this is pure marketing agreement, I can stomach it. Memo to drake though: dude you better not be rocking other teams gear anywhere. Most Canadians hate you already so run everything you have to say by the Raptors P.r dept before you say it and we will be cool. If Raps don’t win , no baller is going to want to join degrassi junior highs team.

  5. lucifershuttlesworth - Sep 30, 2013 at 12:34 PM

    More Jonas, less Drake please.

  6. hildezero - Sep 30, 2013 at 1:27 PM

    XD That was a funny ass comment. Especially the part,

    “…but i like the name raptors. who cares if there’s never been one near toronto,”


  7. huskerguy - Sep 30, 2013 at 1:29 PM

    There’s always been a lot of bull in Chicago

  8. kb2408 - Sep 30, 2013 at 1:31 PM

    Can he contribute “on the court”? Didn’t think so.

  9. cbking05 - Sep 30, 2013 at 1:31 PM

    I’m sure most Canadians are pissed that Bieber wasn’t chosen first …

  10. barnesaintnoble - Sep 30, 2013 at 1:59 PM

    Just sign more players that look like raptors and other dinosaurs. Bosh was perfect.

  11. asimonetti88 - Sep 30, 2013 at 2:43 PM

    Drake is the kind of guy that catches his girl’s kisses and puts them in his pocket for later.

    • 00maltliquor - Sep 30, 2013 at 5:42 PM

      I’m dead! LOOOOL!!!

      • asimonetti88 - Sep 30, 2013 at 10:01 PM

        Drake’s the type of guy that eats two gummy bears at once, just so they don’t have to die alone.

    • 00maltliquor - Oct 1, 2013 at 2:21 AM

      LMMFAOOO!!! YO, where the hell do you come up this stuff!! That gummy bears one is epic! How many of these digs do you got up your sleeve!!? I seen another Drake post a couple days ago where someone said Drake is the type of guy that plays GTA5, points the gun at a civilian, then drops the controler and says, “I can’t do this”! That was wildly hysterical but the gummy bear one you dropped takes the cake.

      Its like the Chuck Norris jokes about how awesome he is, but backwards for Drake!

      • asimonetti88 - Oct 1, 2013 at 5:06 PM

        That was me. Google the “Drake the type” tumblr

    • 00maltliquor - Oct 1, 2013 at 3:09 AM

      Drake strikes me as the type of guy that, even though he doesn’t have a wife, he still has over 10 throw pillows on his bed, Bath and Body Works lotions on his bathroom counter, and a nite light for his stuffed animals he has lined up on a shelf above his headboard.

  12. sylpkt - Sep 30, 2013 at 2:51 PM

    I am deeply offended by the nickname Raptors. It symbolizes that all dinosaurs were violent creatures. Many dinosaurs were peaceful and did nothing more than take up space, eat plants and poop everywhere. On behalf of all non-violent dinosaurs everywhere, please rethink the message you’re sending our children.

    • 00maltliquor - Sep 30, 2013 at 5:53 PM

      Thisss guuuy^^^

      I would love to go back in time, take a real Raptor, bring it back and throw you in a cage with it and see you try to pet it to show the kids how friendly it is.

      Reality is reality, kids need to know that too. While not all dinosaurs were vicious, there are some that were, but that’s like anything else in nature. There’s nothing wrong with that. Would you put your child in a Lion exhibit and tell him it’s a cute and friendly kitty?

      Now don’t you have some dishes to wash, laundry to fold and some scented candles to light before your wife comes home from work?

      • birdgang - Sep 30, 2013 at 6:14 PM

        No, no he wasn’t trying to be as sarcastic as he possibly could be. Lay off the liquor malt, you may be able to comprehend sarcasm if you were sober.

      • antistratfordian - Sep 30, 2013 at 6:15 PM

        Thisss guuuy^^^

        …took that much too seriously.

      • 00maltliquor - Sep 30, 2013 at 6:34 PM

        LOL, maybe the jokes on me, maybe it’s not. You never know nowadays with all these sissies that cry about everything being offensive. It’s getting out of control. But the way he put it I doubt he was being sarcastic.

    • sylpkt - Oct 1, 2013 at 12:19 AM

      yeah man, that statement was complete sarcasm. I figured the “poop” really gave it away, but I guess some people really don’t get sarcasm. Yay for the internet!

      • 00maltliquor - Oct 1, 2013 at 1:32 AM

        Lol! Okay, you got me. I’m just gonna stfu now and wipe the egg off my face and regroup.

  13. telergy - Sep 30, 2013 at 3:26 PM

    Ohhh, the ideas funn…

  14. grapenutz08 - Sep 30, 2013 at 3:27 PM

    I watch this press conference. What a joke. Drake got more questions than the Raptors front office. Smh…It was like a really bad sitcom

  15. edwardemanuelson - Sep 30, 2013 at 4:20 PM

    Isn’t this guy a Heat fan??? Like, openly, not even shy about it? Which is ok, of course. I don’t care. But come on…

    • antistratfordian - Sep 30, 2013 at 4:53 PM

      He roots for his buddy LeBron. He’s not necessarily a Heat fan other than that.

  16. 32magicman - Sep 30, 2013 at 4:24 PM

    Change the name! The uniforms and team colours look great already. Raptors was an awful choice.

    • biasedhomer - Sep 30, 2013 at 4:37 PM

      How does Toronto Geese sound?

  17. antistratfordian - Sep 30, 2013 at 4:48 PM

    This should help the Raptors about as much as Timberlake helped Myspace. But changing the look and the colors is a step in the right direction. Please ixnay the Teenwolf raptor logo.

  18. rohlo - Sep 30, 2013 at 5:20 PM

    if you put lipstick on a pig ,it is still a pig!!!!!they should change the nickname! nobody relates to the raptors! jurrasic park is old news and barney the dino is even played out in the kiddy world as well!they should use a name that has a canadian heritage of sorts! just mu opinion!!! toronto fans deserve a good product and toronto is a big market! go rockets!!!

  19. huskerguy - Sep 30, 2013 at 5:29 PM

    Toronto hockey pucks…

  20. TestSubjekt - Sep 30, 2013 at 6:53 PM

    I’m not really a basketball fan, but I think I’d be more inclined to watch or even go to Raptors games if they were a contending playoff team.

    I think one of the biggest reasons they’re viewed as a joke is on the court they have been…for years. Go back to my first point and put a winning team on the court and things will change.

  21. nflnhlrulznbasux - Oct 1, 2013 at 3:17 AM

    effn’ sweet!!! Drake? That’s soo awesome! wow…,,,,,,so they may make the playoffs some day, big whoop, in a 5 team league that allows star treatment regarding rules like travelling 120 ft. with the ball, includes 65 billion time outs at the end of every game, the flopping and chest pounding after slamming home the ball when the score is 141 to 63…..maybe raise the hoop another 2 or 3 feet and force Drake to use a last (first?) name as well and I might care about the NBWWE, but I doubt it……unfortunately, people stupid enough to buy his music(?) are the same saps that buy into the hype of what was once a fantastic league.

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