Some ten months ago, Drake was denied access to Miami's locker room after the Heat's Game 7 victory over the San Antonio Spurs. In what has become a widely circulated video, the rapper attempts to sneak past a security guard by claiming that he is a media member. His efforts, while creative and hilarious, didn't work.
Now, with the NBA playoffs upon us again, the 27-year-old rapper has gone from outcast to host of the party, quite literally. When Drake was tapped earlier this month to host the 2014 ESPY's, it capped a whirlwind year for the Toronto native in terms of his sports credibility.
#1 reason why Drake should host the ESPY's? He has emerged as the #1 most prominent sports fan in the last year
— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) April 10, 2014
Drake has maintained a longstanding interest sports and often discusses athletics in his raps. On the title track of his 2010 album "Thank Me Later," Drake croons "Damn, I swear sports and music are so synonymous / Cause we want to be them, and they want to be us." The 2009 music video for his Drake's song "Forever" prominently features LeBron James.
But during the past year Drake's sports visibility has skyrocketed, thanks in part to his friendship with Johnny Manziel, his (mis)adventures at the Final Four and his new position with the Raptors.
Drake and Manziel have been friends for several years, and the two have bonded over their swift rise to stardom. Drake went from a child actor to a world renowned rapper and Manziel went from an unknown redshirt freshman quarterback to a Heisman winner, cultural sensation and likely first-round draft pick.
As Manziel's stock has risen, so has Drake's. The two hung out at the Final Four in Dallas, and Drake recently released a song called "Draft Day" with major shout-outs to Manziel.
In February, Drake was spotted wearing this Manziel "tribute" shirt.
Drake is the greatest person ever for this Johnny Manziel shirt.. Would pay $100 for this right now pic.twitter.com/Q9myCTgURn
— Chad Lovic (@ChadLovic) February 2, 2014
Manziel isn't the only young standout with whom Drake has associated this year. He's also maintained close ties to the Kentucky Wildcats, a team full of talented freshmen. While Drake has been a Kentucky fan for a while -- he's said that John Calipari inspired him to finish high school -- he was accused of jumping on the Wildcats' bandwagon this year during their run to the national championship game.
The fuss surrounding Drake's supposed loyalty became so loud that UConn's official Twitter account posted this trolling tweet moments after the Huskies victory.
— UConn Men's Hoops (@UConnMBB) April 8, 2014
Unfazed by the criticism, Drake is back in the sports spotlight once again. The Raptors, his hometown team and the franchise, which named him a global ambassador earlier this year, are in the postseason for the first time since 2008. Drake was front and center for the team's first two games against the Brooklyn Nets, and his preening during Game 2 caused quite a stir on Twitter.
Earlier this year Drake assisted Terrence Ross at the NBA's dunk contest and debuted a suit jacket lined with a retro Vince Carter jersey.
Drake certainly isn't the first artist to associate himself with sports, but his ties are stronger than many others'. And while his forays into athletics haven't always been popular or positive, it's the publicity that counts. His ubiquity generates more interest in his personal brand and his ties to young stars (Manziel) and rising franchises (the Raptors) can be seen as investments.
And it may not be long before Drake is reaping the benefits.