The connection between the Raptors and their global ambassador Drake has, for the most part, never felt more tenuous. Toronto’s team has never been better on the court, and the need for a spokesman, someone off the court, to speak for them has diminished. Gone are the highly publicized Drake Nights, which began as an almost intimate occasion. Gone too are Drake’s regular appearances at games.
In the absence of the culture mogul’s physical presence has come the creation of Sher Club, the premium spot of Scotiabank Arena, and the laudable Welcome Toronto initiative, which goes beyond just a different court and jersey, extending as it does into a city-wide charitable commitment. What began as a way for both team and artist to bolster their respective brands has gradually turned into a broader positive for the entire community. (Even if it remains somewhat easy to make fun of Drake and his incessant branding; The Boy locker is still in the Raps’ locker room, if you were curious.)
And so we arrive at the latest Raptors-Drake crossover, the official renaming of Toronto’s practice facility, née the BioSteel Centre, to the OVO Athletic Centre. Since its opening in February 2016, the building has functioned as multi-tiered planning, training, and treatment centre, with everything the Raptors and their staff need to take care of the team’s players (including, yes, a barber’s chair — whose services, according to Lucas Nogueira, the players have to pay for out of pocket).
In any case, it’s yet another way for Drake to slap his brand onto another Raptors (and MLSE) building, and it remains to be seen what this actually means in practice, but if nothing else: it... looks kinda cool?
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Introducing the OVO Athletic Centre, the official training facility for the Toronto Raptors. just wanted to add that I am so proud of my brothers and so proud to be from this city I swear this one feels like a high school dream and it’s a blessing to be able to raise up the levels and make the human mind stretch when it comes to thinking about what is possible in your lifetime!! Much love to everyone involved
Worry not, there’s a promotional video that comes along with the name changeover to explain. It’s narrated by Drake and Raptors President Masai Ujiri, and points at some kind of future plan. Masai closes with the line: “I think this is a space we’re going to create that’s going to be very unique around the league.”
Don’t believe him? Watch for yourself.
We made it happen. Introducing the OVO Athletic Centre.@welcomeOVO | #WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/8Z2Trv6evi— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) March 14, 2019
Me personally though, I can’t stop laughing at the idea of linking Drake and OVO with athletics. Outside of a propensity for shirtless and muscly selfies, Drake hasn’t exactly shown himself to be much of an athlete (I’m not going to link his Kentucky airball). I don’t want to rag on the guy too much, especially since I do believe the clout he’s invested in Toronto has helped the Raptors gain a foothold in the culture conscience — but it is funny to think about anyway.