Drake sits courtside at NBA arenas across the country, mingles with players and is even the "global ambassador" of his hometown Toronto Raptors. On top of all this, Drake coats his lyrics with references to NBA players.
Drake's new album "VIEWS" (which was originally titled "Views From the 6") will be released Friday, and it is sure to include more basketball lines. For the time being, here is our NBA All-Drake Team. Choices are made based on both players' skill and the strength of Drake's lyrics.
PG: Stephen Curry
For all the bandwagon moves Drake has made (like rooting for Kentucky and the Miami Heat), he jumped on the Steph train before Currymania struck. In July 2014, Drizzy said in "0 to 100 / The Catch Up":
"This s*** a mothaf***in' lay up
I been Steph Curry with the shot
Been cookin' with the sauce, Chef Curry with the pot, boy
360 with the wrist, boy
Who the f*** them n****s is, boy?"
Drake commended Curry's shooting while shouting out wife Ayesha's YouTube cooking channel, Little Lights of Mine. The couple subsequently posted a remix to the verse (with an appearance by Riley before Riley was cool).
Curry began his first MVP campaign just a few months later. Ayesha, a Toronto native, now has books and TV shows and can do pretty much whatever she wants. Drake says you're welcome to the Curry family.
SG: Allen Iverson
A.I. played most of his career in Philadelphia and is clearly on Team Meek. Despite this, two of Drake's greatest NBA verses reference Iverson. In "Thank Me Now," Drake says:
"And that's around the time that your idols become your rivals
You make friends with Mike but got to A.I. him for your survival."
In other words, Drake is saying he grew up admiring certain rappers, but now in the rap game, it is Drake's job to outperform his idols. Iverson famously crossed over Michael Jordan upon making the NBA.
That line came in 2010. In 2015, Drake brought A.I. back in "6PM In New York":
"They all contested Allen Iverson shoe deal, these n****s all in question."
This is more complex than what may meet the eye. Iverson's first signature shoes in 1996 were called the "Questions." Of course, Iverson's nickname is "The Answer," and he eventually came out with "The Answer" shoes. Drake is effectively saying he will answer everyone's questions.
SF: Kevin Durant
Drake pulls two double entendres in his verse on French Montana's "Pop That":
"OVO that's major s***, Toronto with me that's mayor s***
Gettin cheddar packs like KD, OKC that's player s***."
Drake references he and Durant making significant money, while also connecting cheddar with a Kraft Dinner (KD). He writes, "OKC that's player s***," which can also be read as, "Okay, see that's player s***."
Durant approved of the line on Twitter and even said he feels like Barack Obama when he hears it.
PF: DeMarcus Cousins
Drake's line in "6 Man" has turned into common lingo in pop basketball culture:
"Not your guy, I'm not your buddy, show no lovin'
I might go DeMarcus Cousins out in public."
Cousins has earned a reputation as one of the bad boys of today's NBA. He plays a physical style of basketball, commonly won't shake hands with opponents and calls out his coaches. Cousins turned to Twitter and Instagram to bury his last coach George Karl, who lasted a year and a half with him in Sacramento. Drake is expressing that he may act aggressive in a somewhat controlled manner like Cousins does.
Drake's relationship with Cousins goes back to the big man's college days at Kentucky. In Sacramento, Drake is a friend of Kings owner Vivek Ranadive.
C: Shaquille O'Neal
Drake's ode to Shaq on "Used To" is subtle but strong:
"Yea, I'm f***in' glowin' up
Shaq postin' up on n****s that I used to have posters of."
In the 1990s, O'Neal stormed into the league with the Orlando Magic, battling established bigs such as Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing and David Robinson. In just his third season, O'Neal beat Michael Jordan in a playoff series en route to a trip to the NBA Finals. Likewise, Drake is saying that he has risen up in the rap game to go head-to-head with some of his idols.
Sixth Man: Lou Williams
Perhaps Drake's greatest NBA accomplishment is helping guide Louis Williams to a Sixth Man of the Year Award. Williams only played one season with the Raptors, 2014-15, and Drake released "6 Man" in February 2015. He opened the track with:
"Boomin' out in South Gwinnett like Lou Will
6 man like Lou Will, 2 girls and they get along like I'm... (Louuuu)
Like I'm Lou Will, I just got the new deal."
Williams recorded a career-high 15.5 points with the Raptors in 80 games, none of which he started. In April 2015, he won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award. Williams preceded to sign a three-year, $21 million deal with the Lakers last offseason.
G/F: Michael Jordan
Drake has a clear affinity with Jordan, referencing the legend multiple times and signing a deal with the Jordan Brand. With that said, his early Jordan mentions were pretty soft compared to those of rappers like Jay-Z and Kanye West. Here's Drake in "Over My Dead Body":
"Don't I got the s*** the world wanna hear again?
Don't Michael Jordan still got his hoop earring in?"
Nothing special, right?
Drake improved in the last year or so.
On "10 Bands," Drake alluded to his Jordan Brand deal, saying:
"I get boxes of free Jordan like I play for North Carolina
How much I make off the deal, how the f*** should I know?"
On "Back to Back," he dropped the line:
"Back to back like I'm Jordan '96, '97."
He could have picked a number of variations, but those are the years Drake decided to go with.
Finally, Drake hit his Jordan stride in "Jumpman," a track with Future that basically serenades the Jordan Brand.
"Jumpman, Jumpman, Jumpman, f*** was you expecting? Woo
Chi-Town, Chi-Town, Michael Jordan just had text me, woo."
It is a little arrogant, but what would you do if you had Michael Jordan's phone number?
Drake later adds,
"I just had to buy another safe
Bentley Spur and Phantom, Jordan fadeaway."
Drake tips his hat to Jordan skills and elegance. The 6 God's perfect Jordan lyric still is not here. MJ is on the roster, but he can't crack the starting lineup.
F: LeBron James
Speaking of mega-stars who miss the Drake starting lineup, there is this guy.
Drake and LeBron go way back. Drake's fifth single as lead artist, "Forever," featuring Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Eminem, was released in August 2009 when Drake was just 22. The song was part of the "Music Inspired by More Than a Game" soundtrack album to "More Than a Game," the 2008 documentary film on James and AAU/high school teammates. Drake and LeBron are just two years apart and appear to have become close friends.
In terms of actual lyric reference, Drake's LBJ notes are good, not great.
After James' first title, Drake rapped in "5AM in Toronto":
"Some n****s been here for a couple, never been here again
I'm on my King James s***, I'm tryna win here again
A young n**** tryin' to win here again."
In other words, like James, who was trying to repeat with the Heat, Drake was trying to maintain his position atop the rap game. James did repeat in 2013, but he lost in the NBA Finals in 2014 and 2015. In 2016, Drake's Raptors may be in the way of another Eastern Conference title for LeBron.
G: Kobe Bryant
Drake absolutely crushes his Kobe reference while appearing on Rick Ross's "Stay Schemin'." It is genius. It should put Bryant in the starting lineup here.
"Kobe 'bout to lose a hundred fifty M's
Kobe my n**** I hate it had to be him
B**** you wasn't with me shooting in the gym
(B**** you wasn't with me shooting in the gym)."
You see, this verse came out in early 2012, shortly after Vanessa Bryant filed for divorce from Kobe, citing irreconcilable differences. Drake is explaining that Vanessa is about to take a ton of Kobe's money even though he was the one who made the cash thanks to hard work and dedication.
In 2013, Kobe and Vanessa made up and called off their divorce. Drake still mingles with Kobe, although Vanessa can't be a big Drizzy fan. Oops.
G: Derrick Rose
Rose can barely stay healthy, but that's why he gets on this list. Drake compares himself to Rose in "Furthest Thing" in 2013:
"A n**** fillin' up arenas, who the f*** could see us?
I had to Derrick Rose the knee up before I got the re-up."
Rose sat out the entire 2012-13 season, despite doctors clearing him by March. Rose kept himself out, but came back the following season, assuming he was in a healthier state. Likewise, Drake came out with "Take Care" in 2011 and took 2012 off to perfect his 2013 album, "Nothing Was the Same.
The difference between Rose and Drake is Rose never recovered after his year off. Rose only played ten games in 2013-14 and his 66 games this season were the guard's most since 2010-11. Drake has been just fine since his year off. In fact, he is probably in his prime more so now than in 2013.
C: Dwight Howard
The roster needs some more size, so Howard swoops in for a bench spot. In September 2013, Howard had just moved to the Rockets and was still considered one of the NBA's top centers. So Drake, who is an undersized guard, referenced his height in "Tuscan Leather."
"I reached the point where don't s*** matter to me, n****
I reached heights that Dwight Howard couldn't reach, n****."
On the surface, Drake is referencing Howard's physical height. He is technically 6-11, but with his muscular frame, looks more like real live Superman.
However, Drake is also taking a minor shot by noting that Howard could not reach championship heights in his one year with the Lakers. Two years removed from a title, Los Angeles lost in the conference semifinals for the second straight season.
G: Chris Paul
Drake and Chris Paul seem to have a good relationship even though Drake went absolutely crazy when Paul was crossed up by Stephen Curry last season.
Drake's 2009 reference to Paul in "Ignorant S***" is simple, but clever:
"On some Southern drawl s***
Rookie of the year, '06 Chris Paul s***."
Along with being known for his many accomplishments, including the 2006 Rookie of the Year Award, Paul has a North Carolina accent that he does not try to hide in the NBA. Drake released his first mixtape, "Room for Improvement," in 2006 when he was 19. However, Drake does not have a southern drawl.
G: Tony Parker
Most rap fans, even Drake fans, may not know the words to Asthma Team, but they should know this line:
Stop acting like teen girls are my only market
I parallel the Flying +Spur+ +Tony park+ it."
In Drake's early years -- this is from his second mixtape, "Comeback Season" in 2007 -- he got a reputation for having an act suited for young girls. Drake argues this is not true because he rides around in a Bentley Flying Spur, a macho car.
The Tony Parker reference works with the Spurs line, but Parker has a DeLorean, not a Bentley.
G: James Harden
Now that he is an Adidas player, Harden is finding himself in Kanye lyrics. That said, Drake drops a heavy Harden lyric in DJ Khaled's "No New Friends."
"Man this s*** so ill that we had to restart it
H-town my second home like I'm James Harden
Money counter go *brrrr* when you sellin' out the Garden."
According to Rap Genius, Drake met his rap mentor, Lil Wayne, in Houston. Meanwhile, Harden joined the Rockets as his second team after a stint with the Thunder.
G: Manu Ginobili
Nothing flashy here, but it gets the job done. In "Jumpman," Drake, a righty, confirms his versatility by talking about how he can go to his left.
"I hit that Ginobili with my left hand up like woo."
Ginobili, a four-time NBA champ and 14-year veteran, is a southpaw with heavy emphasis on his dominant hand.
G: Cory Joseph
The roster deserves a 16th spot for this guy. Think of it as a bonus track. Cory Joseph is not close to as skilled as the players on the rest of this list. He has never averaged double-digit points in a season and in five years, he has just 47 starts. But he has one of Drake's best NBA references.
"I get a ring and I bring it home like I’m Cory Joe."
After four seasons in San Antonio, winning a championship in 2013-14, Joseph signed a four-year, $30 million deal with the Raptors on July 9, 2015. Joseph, who is from Toronto, thus brought home a ring to the 6. A noted Tracy McGrady fan, Joseph opted to wear No. 1 with the Raptors.
On July 25, Drake released "Charged Up," with the above reference. The next day, Joseph announced he was changing his digit to No. 6. He would wear No. 6 for the 6 after being shouted out by the 6 God. Drake then wore a Cory Joseph jersey to OVO Fest last August to unveil the Raptors' OVO-themed jersey.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.