Toronto Raptors global ambassador Drake held his annual Drake Night at the Air Canada Centre Wednesday (Nov. 16) for a showdown against the Golden State Warriors. Besides the free, limited-edition t-shirts on every seat and more songs from the self-proclaimed 6 God in the arena playlist, Drake Night is a special ode to his native Toronto.
“I like to think of Drake Night as the third true marker of the season starting [after the preseason game and season opener],” said Drake when asked by Billboard during a pregame press conference. “So you get a real look at what the city has to offer as a fan base. We are a rowdy bunch. We are an extremely supportive bunch and I like to think that Drake Night gets that mentality started for the city.”
He continued, “That’s always my goal — to give back. Masai [Ujiri, the Raptors president] allows us to design product and be able to give back to the city and the people in attendance. We have the Sher Club here (named after Drake’s grandparents) and tonight will be the first night that I’ll get to go in there and have a little celebratory party.”
Ujiri also presented an OVO and Raptors-themed jacket, a gift to Drake from the organization. “This year, we’re giving him a jacket that’s representative of the Huskies, which is something we’ve been doing this year in celebration of 70 years since we were the Toronto Huskies,” Shannon Hosford, VP of marketing and fan experience, told Billboard over the phone.
Beyond his new Raptors swag, Drake — clad in a “Woman Crush Everyday” sweatshirt depicting NBA analyst Doris Burke, who accepted the rapper’s dinner invitation during the game — also managed to squeeze in some heckling from his courtside seat, which got a very unenthusiastic response from newly minted Warrior, Kevin Durant. “I don’t care about no damn Drake night,” he said in a sideline interview.
It was all love for Golden State on Drake’s behalf, who hand-picked the Warriors — which includes his close friend, Steph Curry — to ball against the Raptors. “I get to choose the game so obviously I try and choose an exciting one. Playing a few friends of mine tonight, so it should get interesting. I’m not mic’d up tonight, right, when I’m courtside?,” he also quipped before the game. “Obviously it doesn’t matter what city you’re in, I feel like everybody wants to catch a glimpse of Golden State at this juncture in time so I try to pick an exciting game that I personally think we can win. They’re a great team, but they’re not invincible… So I want the Drake Night record to not only be all wins, but I want them to be good wins.”
Despite the home team taking their first Drake Night loss (Warriors won 127-121), the rapper still managed to have a good time among his Canadian people at the arena, where delicious Hot Lime Bling (boneless chicken breast zested with lime and topped shredded coconut with hot sauce) has been on the menu year-round. He didn’t do the player introductions or partake in any swag giveaways as he has at past Drake Nights nor was there the excitement of the “Hotline Bling” dance booth outside the venue — which created some madness last year — but there was a Drake Copy Cat Cam, where random attendees were asked to duplicate poses of the rapper. Even Drake himself obliged.
you used to call me on myyyyy pic.twitter.com/SRlctNP7Zt
— Holly MacKenzie (@stackmack) November 17, 2016
For the halftime entertainment, Drake didn’t opt for OVO signees like Majid Jordan and Partynextdoor, both of whom were on tour, but rather, the seven-year-old viral prodigy Young Dylan. “We’ve got Dylan off Instagram who’s been on the Ellen show [to perform Drake and DJ Khaled collab “For Free”]. Just probably raps better than me at this point. Flawless execution of all Drake songs so I feel like it’ll be a cute halftime show, to put it that way,” explained the man of the night, even teasing that Young Dylan could eventually join his roster. “He might be an OVO artist one day.”
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) November 17, 2016
For Drake, who came onboard as global ambassador for the Raptors in 2013, the biggest source of pride was simply coming home to support his team. (After an extensive 50-plus show tour run this year, Drake had to cancel several October dates, including ones in Toronto at the ACC, due to an ankle injury.)
“I’m really happy to be home,” he said. “I’ve been away for a long time. I was on tour and then I was just resting up and recovering in Los Angeles. Drake added of the Raptors, “I’ve obviously been following the guys. An extremely exciting year, led by DeMar [DeRozan]. As a team, we’re doing extremely well — young team, forever evolving, forever growing. Myself and Masai always discussing new and exciting things, new and exciting ways to keep the team inspired and to keep the city inspired.”