Good job, Mr. “Global Ambassador.”
If you predicted a verbal altercation involving rapper Drake and Cleveland’s Kendrick Perkins during and after the Cavaliers’ 113-112 overtime victory over the Toronto Raptors in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference semifinal, you win!
Drake, whose role as the Raptors’ “global ambassador” is largely undefined, sits courtside at home games, right next to the Toronto bench. Tuesday night, he and Perkins began jawing during the game, and then continued their vigorous, mildly entertaining, sort of profane Algonquin round table after it.
“Believe that,” Perkins could be heard yelling at Drake on his way off the court, courtesy of video from ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “I’m supersized!”
So much for the ambassador-ing. Just what is it Drake does, anyway? Complex.com took a look a couple of years ago and reported that his “obligations have included consulting on the team’s rebranding and helping with initiatives” involving the 2016 All-Star Game. More importantly, he was tasked with helping the Raptors forge a new identity, becoming the courtside “Jack Nicholson of the North.” Move over, Spike Lee.
“I think he’s helped with the culture,” Tim Leiweke, the team’s former executive and a man who embraced Drake’s role, said in the 2016 interview. “I think that’s his biggest accomplishment.”
The Raptors were happy enough with the results that they expanded the partnership earlier this year.
“Over the past four years, the Raptors’ relationship with Drake has always ultimately been about celebrating this city and the people that make it unique,” Raptors President Masai Ujiri said in January. “We have something very special happening in Toronto, and Drake is a big part of that. We’re looking forward to this opportunity to continue working together to inspire and support young people, to showcase this great city around the world and to grow the game of basketball.”
You can’t say that Drake isn’t raising the team’s profile and giving it some edge, that’s for sure. During Toronto’s first-round win over the Washington Wizards, the ambassador called Kelly Oubre Jr. a bum, told John Wall his team was being bodied, and then continued to talk trash to Wall as the series went on.
As for Mr. Ambassador himself, he has said he is sincere in his fandom, and a “Raptors fan to the death.” Meanwhile, his jawing generates clicks and headlines on weekday mornings, and the NBA is smart enough to realize there’s no harm, no foul — only buzz.
So here’s what went down in Drake’s latest public squabble. Angry words were exchanged as the teams left the court at halftime.
“What happened was I was talking to my old teammate Serge [Ibaka], walking into halftime,” Perkins wrote in a text message to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, “telling [Ibaka], ‘We about to win this game,’ and Drake butted in talking s— to me. So I said something back to him.”
Perkins, according to ESPN’s McMenamin, replied, “Sit you [sic] a– down and watch the game.”
And with that, it was on. Not that there was much danger of actual violence after the game. Drake, as The Washington Post’s Tim Bontemps writes, may not have been deterred despite his massive height and weight disadvantages but was surely confident he would never actually have to square off with Perkins.
Still, the result was fierce and fiercely entertaining.
Kevin Garnett, Perkins’s longtime teammate, suggested that perhaps the ambassador needed to rethink his approach.
“Drake might not want that one,” Garnett said on his “Area 21″ show for TNT. “Chill, chill, chill, chill.”
And the Perkins affair appeared more genuinely hostile than Drake’s Tuesday conversation with an earlier target — LeBron James.
In diplomacy’s pecking order, a king trumps an ambassador every single time.
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