Suddenly, Drake’s “global ambassador” deal with the Toronto Raptors makes perfect sense. The video below, released on YouTube yesterday, looks and sounds like a Nike ad. It’s perfectly calibrated to stoke national pride—the tagline is “We The North”—while at the same time imbuing the Raptors with ineffable cool through the magic of symbolism. (There’s a wolf! And a basketball net on fire!)
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Some good Toronto sports news, for once: the Toronto Raptors mascot, who was thought to be out for the season because of an achilles tendon injury suffered late last year, is going to be returning to the ACC on Sunday for the first time since his accident. This is kind of a big deal, because the raptor is amazing.
He’s a semi-legend in the world of sports mascots, and at least one sports writer has argued that he’s one of the hardest-working game-day sideshows in the league. Nobody else can swallow a cheerleader whole. Even his mistakes are weirdly graceful and entertaining.
The team has been promoting the return of the prodigal dinosaur with a series of “training montage”-style YouTube videos, featuring the raptor and his interim replacement, Stripes. One of the videos is embedded above, and the rest are below.
The raptor’s return game will be this one, against the Atlanta Hawks.
The Toronto Raptors’ ongoing rebranding efforts haven’t succeeded in doing much more than putting Drake and Rob Ford on a stage together, but today we finally got a glimpse of the future—and it turns out the future is dressed like a Swarovski bumble bee.
The Star’s Doug Smith writes that Raptors management is “definitely” considering switching the team’s uniforms from red and white to black and gold, starting in the 2015-16 season. He adds that he’s heard nothing to suggest that the colour change has actually been decided upon. The Raptors are still in the middle of executing a strategic self-reinvention plan—apparently losing constantly isn’t great for a team’s image—and nothing has been officially announced yet. Read the rest of this entry »
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Sayonara, Don Cherry. Toronto’s sports allegiance is quickly changing
One hundred and twenty-two years ago, a Canadian gym teacher with an unruly classroom grabbed two peach baskets and a soccer ball, and invented a game he called Basket Ball. Now, finally, the sport is coming home. According to a recent study, more kids in this country play basketball than hockey. The causes are varied—astronomical prices for hockey gear and waves of immigrants from hoops-mad countries, for a start—but the result is clear: a crop of insanely talented ballers, the majority of them with GTA roots, not so quietly infiltrating the sport’s upper echelons. Here are the four big names leading the charge.
I walked around downtown a little bit, and I got kind of a humble feeling, everybody was so polite and so cool. That’s when I first started loving Toronto…I’ll definitely consider living here. I love it out here…Toronto is part of me. I’ve been around, the people are very kind, I love it here.
—Raptor Amir Johnson, on his deep affection for his adopted city in general, and its residents’ courteousness in particular. The L.A.-born basketball player’s manners aren’t too shabby, either: every season, he treats 100 fans to a Raptors game and dinner, and last week, he spontaneously bought out two stores of the new album from his friend and new colleague Drake, and gave them out on at Yonge-Dundas Square. (Johnson was most impressed that the gathered fans politely queued up when he asked them to.) Since arriving in Toronto in 2009, the forward has also: danced in the Caribana parade; dressed up for the Zombie Walk; thrown the first pitch at a Jays game; become a Leafs fan and attended Nuit Blanche. Someone give this guy honorary citizenship already. [CBC News]
Today in weird match-ups: at a Toronto Raptors press conference this morning, Drake and Rob Ford together announced that the team will host the 2016 All-Star Game. Drake—who, along with being Toronto’s biggest booster, is an avid Raptors fan—was also named the Raptors’ new “global ambassador,” an as-yet-undefined position that could encompass anything from wearing more team gear to persuading his NBA buddies to sign with Toronto (Ford did not receive a similar basketball ambassadorship). Drake will also have a say on the Raptors’ new colours, which are changing from the current white-and-red scheme for the 2015–16 season. The franchise is hoping the All-Star Game, Drake’s golden touch and a new look will give a much-needed boost to its cool factor. We humbly submit that they might want to add one more to-do to that list: win some games. [Toronto Star]
This could get awkward: Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment brass axed Bryan Colangelo as general manager of the Toronto Raptors today, but he’s keeping his second, more corporate role as the team’s president. MLSE’s new CEO Tim Leiweke told reporters that a five-season playoff drought finally caught up with Colangelo, and that while the former GM is “ticked off,” he’s accepting the reshuffle. (Of course, Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke was also fired-but-not-fired earlier this year, and he only stuck around for another six weeks.) Leiweke plans to find a new GM within a month, and Denver Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri, Raptors vice-president of basketball operations Ed Stefanski and Oklahoma City Thunder assistant GM Troy Weaver are all reportedly on the short list. [TSN]
When 17-year-old Andrew Wiggins leapt into the air and reared back a tomahawk dunk this past summer at the prestigious LeBron James Skills Academy, even James himself jumped out of his seat in awe. Wiggins, the son of an ex–NBA player father and an Olympic track medalist mother, started his ascent at Vaughan Secondary School, where he led the Voyageurs to a provincial championship in 2011. Today, he’s considered the best high school player in the world and is expected to be a top NBA draft pick as early as 2014. At six-foot-seven, Wiggins blocks and rebounds, shoots three-pointers with ease and explodes to the hoop with a nearly four-foot vertical leap—the kind of all-around skills that draw comparisons to LeBron James. Wiggins is spending his last year of high school at a top prep academy in West Virginia, and big colleges are salivating at the chance to recruit him. Canada has long been an afterthought when it comes to high-level basketball, but that’s about to change, thanks to an abundance of talented Toronto-based ballers. Wiggins is by far the best.
Dear Urban Diplomat, Read the rest of this entry »
I am one of two women in an office of men, most of whom are diehard sports fans. The holiday party this year is being held in a VIP box at a Raptors game. The venue seems sexist to me. Is it fair to ask my boss to consider a less dude-oriented locale? If so, how do I do it without coming off as hyper-PC?
—Unsportsmanlike Colleague, Yonge and Eg
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Bryan Colangelo, the Raptors’ impulsive, extravagant general manager, has finally accepted the business necessity of recruiting star players. Unlike the current roster of no-name Europeans, stars sell tickets and jerseys and TV ads. Most important of all, stars win games
By Eric Andrew-Gee | Photography by Markian Lozowchuk
Bryan Colangelo watches Raptors games from the concrete tunnel that leads to the home team’s locker room. He never sits; he paces, totally absorbed, his face—flinty, grey eyes narrowed, cheeks creased with exhaustion, jaw tense—like a war mask. From his intimate vantage point of the Air Canada Centre court, Colangelo evaluates the players that he, as Raptors president and general manager, has hired at great expense—some $60 million in paycheques a year—with the exclusive goal of winning basketball games. And, more often than not, Colangelo watches his team lose. Read the rest of this entry »
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1. SCOTIABANK BUSKERFEST
Last year, over a million people descended upon Front Street to see the world’s top buskers, making BuskerFest the largest street performer festival in North America—and this year it’s expected to get even bigger. With over 100 buskers from Japan, Mexico, Ireland, New Zealand and the U.K. (among other places), expect a mind-boggling variety of performers. There’s also plenty of Canadian representation, of course, like Toronto’s Stilt Guys and the Canadian-Australian duo CACDUS, who will perform a set that includes the decidedly nationalistic (and hopefully animal-friendly) stunts “Beaver Bowling” and “Koala Chucking.” The event raises money for Epilepsy Toronto. August 23 to August 26. PWYC. St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood (Front Street, between Jarvis and Yonge), torontobuskerfest.com
2. FAN EXPO
Billed as the Comic Con of the North, Fan Expo brings a slew of gaming, horror, comic, sci-fi and anime fans, stars and industry insiders together this weekend for the largest gathering of its kind in Canada. If you’re a total Neo (meaning you’ve never been to the expo before), you might want to brush up on the lingo used by the predicted 80,000 fans: with appearances by two generations of Star Trek celebrities (Kate Mulgrew from Star Trek Voyager and Levar Burton from Star Trek: The Next Generation), it’s best to arrive with the Trekkers/Trekkies distinction down pat. Also attending: Stan Lee (of Spiderman fame), Back to the Future’s Christopher Lloyd and Doctor Who’s John Barrowman. $25–$45, weekend pass $95. August 23 to August 26. Metro Toronto Convention Centre, fanexpocanada.com
We have a fondness for the musings and grumblings of Toronto Star architecture critic Christopher Hume, but his latest column makes some NBA-sized jumps in logic. Riffing on the fact that Canadian basketball superstar Steve Nash turned down an offer to play for the Toronto Raptors, Hume launches into the usual “our teams don’t win” lament—and then uses the incident as an example of how Toronto has lost its charm. The city has poor planning, lame transit and a brain drain at city hall, Hume writes, and it’s all because Toronto won’t pay for nicer things (or better athletes) and has settled for mediocrity. We’d say Hume’s going a bit far—the Raptors’ ability to attract superstar players shouldn’t be the canary in the mine for the status of the city. [Toronto Star]
The most taboo question in Toronto’s Caribbean and African communities is why half of black fathers refuse to help raise their kids. One father, the son of an absent dad himself, has a simple solution
Last year, a group of gangbangers got together at a community centre at Jane and Finch to talk about what it’s like to be a dad. They ranged in age from 15 to 24, and some had already served time in jail more than once. Because these young men belonged to different gangs, the location of the meeting was chosen carefully to be on neutral ground.
Each of the participants had been cajoled to attend by a parole officer, a case manager or a gang prevention worker, and each received $20 for making it in the door. At first, they were skeptical, their jaws set, reluctant to speak at all. Brandon Hay, the group’s 32-year-old facilitator, introduced himself by revealing his own background, that he’s a father too, of three boys, and that it’s the hardest job he’s ever had. Hay is tall and balding and heavy-set, with lion cubs inked down one arm. His smile is magnetic and his eyes serene behind octagonal glasses. He told a story about his first extended outing alone with his eldest son, Tristan, then less than a year old. On the way home, Tristan began to scream and cry in the back seat, and Hay couldn’t console him. He frantically pulled off the highway into a gas station, drenched in sweat, and called his girlfriend to ask what he should do. The next time his son threw a fit, he was better prepared. The point was: you just have to keep trying. Hay invited the others to tell their own stories, which they did one by one, and suddenly there was a nearly imperceptible shift whereby Hay was no longer in the conversation and the guys were talking among themselves. Read the rest of this entry »
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Will crowds boo Kris Humphries when he returns to Toronto tomorrow? Kim Kardashian, we presume, says yes
Kris Humphries has come a long way since his days as a young (read: not very good) basketball player in Toronto. The ex-Raptor and, more importantly, ex-hubby of Kim Kardashian, will play in the city tomorrow night for the first time since he was officially named the most hated player in basketball. Humphries has been booed at every game so far this season, but it’s still unclear whether sports fans—and those with the time to keep up with the Kardashians—are reacting to rumours that his 72-day marriage was a publicity stunt or to his monotone idiocy on Kourtney and Kim Take New York.