Like every other Toronto Raptors fan, Drake had a Kawhi crush last year.
He has Kawhi Leonard’s No. 2 jersey framed and hanging in his recently completed mansion in the swanky Bridle Path neighbourhood of Toronto, where the music star lives alone and reflects on his feelings, of which there are doubtless many and varied.
It’s the type of opulent palace where no detail is too small. For example: Drake’s toilet seats lift automatically, as if by an unseen hand. Music plays when you poop.
So it’s safe to assume Leonard’s Raptors jersey didn’t jump up on the wall by accident. It wasn’t filler because Drake and his people ran out of ideas after they decorated the Owl-logoed, full-size basketball court.
Clearly, Drake felt for Kawhi. But Kawhi is a calculating dude, breaking hearts from San Antonio all the way north of the 49th parallel.
When Leonard was in Toronto for his free-agent meeting with Raptors executives Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster – you know, the one where his trip from the airport was tracked by news helicopters and broadcast live – he and his pals partied with Drake that night.
And when Kawhi needed a Los Angeles crash pad – the 2019 Finals MVP’s own newly purchased mansion is closer to San Diego – Drake was like, “use my place.”
In a perfect Raptors world, Leonard would have reciprocated all that fawning sincerity by re-signing with Drake’s favourite NBA team and defending their NBA championship.
But no one knows heartbreak and unrequited love like our Aubrey. Unlike the rest of us mopes, his tendency to share his break-up pain is a lucrative side hustle.
And so when Leonard decided – or maybe knew all along – he would sign his next deal to play in Los Angeles for the Clippers rather than return to Toronto, all Drake could do was be philosophical about it, through the pain.
“Look, you can never forgive a man for wanting to go home, that’s pretty much the simplest way I can put it,” the superstar musician mused as part of an extensive interview with Rap Radar recently. “But yeah, it hurt … I truly believe that with Kawhi staying and maybe one minor move we could have run it back and had a real back-to-back. It does hurt.”
This is all relevant again because in an ESPN.com story by Ramona Shelburne about how Paul George ended up joining Leonard on the Clippers, it sure sounds as though an unwitting Drake got played. That he put himself all the way out there and got his heart stomped on.
The passage that buzzed around social media at lightspeed and picked at the old wounds of Raptors fans was this:
There were countless text messages and phone calls and then two in-person meetings at Drake’s house in Hidden Hills, California. (Drake had befriended Leonard during his season in Toronto and let Leonard — who lives in San Diego — stay there when he was in Los Angeles for free-agent meetings.)
The second of the two meetings – according to Shelburne – came after Leonard flew back to Los Angeles on the MLSE corporate jet.
In other words, the deal that broke up the Raptors’ championship team was finalized by Leonard at Drake’s house in L.A.
Now, this doesn’t seem to be a case of Drake flip-flopping loyalties, which – to be fair – he’s been known to do in sports and otherwise.
When it was speculated that Drake had somehow played a role in Leonard leaving by providing the safe house where the Clippers could consummate their year-long campaign of corporate espionage, Shelbourne felt the need to clarify: Drake was duped, he had no idea Kawhi was holding meetings at his L.A. house. It was like an Airbnb user broke the no-pet rule.
Anyway, at the moment, we have no word from Champagne Papi on Leonard taking advantage of his hospitality.
Maybe he’ll just let it go. Maybe he’s listening to tunes in his bathroom – one of them – thinking about the album he’s going to write about it.
Drake’s influence on the Raptors’ affairs is difficult to quantify. It’s clear that after seven years, any idea that he would somehow be able to recruit players to Toronto – the quiet hope when the relationship began back in 2013-14 – was vastly overstated, even if it was never stated.
But at the same time, it’s not like he’s some pretend friend who likes to brag about a connection while everyone else rolls their eyes.
When the Raptors won Game 5 of their second-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum, it was Drake that Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet were FaceTiming in the raucous Raptors dressing room. It was Drake who hosted their championship bender in Las Vegas. It was Drake who was on the double-decker bus beside Leonard at the championship parade.
Drake’s connection was real, and he’s delivered all the memes, third jerseys, court designs and social media buzz any self-respecting franchise could ever want.
He just couldn’t deliver Kawhi. It’s probably not his fault.
As it turns out, the ice that runs through Leonard’s veins when he’s hitting series-winning shots against the Philadelphia 76ers doesn’t just get turned off.
You’d think if Leonard wanted to negotiate his way out of Toronto, he’d have the decency to rent a suite at the Beverly Wilshire or at least get the overly enthusiastic Microsoft dude who owns the Clippers to foot the bill.
But he chose to use Drake’s place.
It’s doubtless another scar on Aubrey’s always pulsing heart muscle.
Not the first or the last. Being a Raptors fan – a super-fan with benefits – means getting hurt once in a while.