Celebrity fandom has long been a part of professional sports. Who could forget Jack Nicholson and Dyan Cannon sitting courtside at the The Forum fawning over the Los Angeles Lakers. And Spike Lee and Woody Allen are still fixtures at Madison Square Garden for New York Knicks games.
Aside from Lee’s interactions with Reggie Miller in the 1990s, the glitterati usually seems content to be seen and not heard. It’s hard to remember the last time a celebrity thrust themselves into the middle of the conversation about what was happening on the floor during an NBA playoff series.
And then Drake took his courtside seat in Toronto and changed the entire scene with his self-indulgent and moronic behavior. And its been going on a lot longer than just the 2019 postseason.
Six years ago, the Raptors decided to bestow upon Drake the title of global brand ambassador. Along with the cool swag he likely received, the Raptors also have done business with him, partnering with Drake’s OVO brand. The team’s practice facility is called the OVO Athletic Centre.
But with the familiarity has come a pattern of troubling behavior. The league had to slap his hand last year when Drake had a brief shouting match with Cleveland’s Kendrick Perkins during the playoffs. That confrontation – Perkins was inactive and sitting on the bench – got somewhat out of hand and the two had to be separated. Jose Calderon, who once played for Toronto, was the guy who tried to calm down Drake
“I’m here in real life,” Drake shouted.
Drake has become such a problem that NBA commissioner Adam Silver was forced to address the problem before the Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday.
“The league office had conversations directly with Drake and his manager, and I think we ended up in a good place,” Silver said.
Détente didn’t even make it through Game 1. Drake was at it again, cajoling in the kind of look-at-me way that might make a casual fan stop listening to his music.
After the Raptors 118-109 win, the Warriors Draymond Green exchanged angry words with the rapper as he was leaving the floor.
“It wasn’t really a scuffle because I didn’t hit him and he didn’t hit me, or I didn’t push him or he didn’t push me,” Green said. “We talked; we barked a little bit. But I wouldn’t necessarily consider it a scuffle. [It wasn’t] what I personally would consider a scuffle.”
Green is one of the most demonstrative players in the league, highly emotional and outspoken. It seems natural that he wouldn’t sit still and quiet if Drake started up on he or his teammates.
Drake has been a regular at Raptors games. You can see him sitting just to the right of Toronto’s bench. And he’s usually limited his interaction with the yelling and jumping up and down that characterizes a super fan. But he crossed the line during Game 4 of the Western Conference finals against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Drake grabbed Raptors coach Nick Nurse by the shoulders, something no fan should ever be allowed to do before, during and after a game. And he justifiably received a lot of criticism for it. One of his biggest detractors was Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer.
“I will say, again, I see it in some timeouts, but I don’t know of any person that’s attending the game that isn’t a participant in the game — a player or a coach — who has access to the court,” Budenholzer. “I don’t know how much he’s on the court. It sounds like you guys are saying it’s more than I realize.
“There’s certainly no place for fans and whatever it is exactly that Drake is for the Toronto Raptors. To be on the court, there’s boundaries and lines for a reason, and like I said, the league is usually pretty good at being on top of stuff like that.”
It initially appeared as if his conversation with Silver had resonated. On Thursday, Drake was wearing Dell Curry’s No. 30 Raptors jersey, a respectful nod to Curry’s son, Stephen, the Warriors superstar guard.
“I think in the case of Drake, as I’ve said before, I mean, we certainly appreciate his superfan status, and I know he’s beloved in the community of Toronto,” Silver said. “I think certainly we don’t want fans, friend or foe, contacting an NBA coach during a game. I think that even as Nick Nurse later said, I didn’t even realize it was Drake or hardly was aware that I was being touched, and I think those can lead to dangerous situations. You’re in the middle of coaching a game and you’re completely focused – you obviously don’t want somebody who is not on your team touching you.
“We understood that in this case, given Drake’s relationship to the team, it’s not the same as just any fan who happened to be courtside touching a coach. But I think that’s an absolute bright line that we have to draw. So that’s one example, and I would also say that I think the issue for the league is that he has this ambassador-type role with the team. So he is viewed a little differently than any fan sitting there. But at the same time, I think there are appropriate lines that shouldn’t be crossed in terms of how a competing team is addressed, or the officials, for that matter.”
Drake and Stephen Curry seemed to have a convivial conversation late in the first quarter. The Warriors called a timeout and as everyone was heading back to their benches, Curry and Drake briefly chatted before Curry joined his teammates.
All seemed well until Drake did or said something to Green that prompted their heated exchange.