“Like that 30 on my jersey – man I’m gifted.”
But the No. 30 jersey that fuelled conversation following Game 1 of the NBA Finals wasn’t Steph Curry’s, it was his father Dell’s throwback Raptors jersey – a vintage piece that Drake wore proudly in his courtside seats – the ultimate troll job.
But how did Drake get his hands on such a rare piece of NBA memorabilia? And perhaps more importantly, who owned it beforehand?
Al Martiniello, owner of Select Vintage in Brooklyn, had been sourcing vintage jerseys for Drake and his OVO team for the past year. But when this request came in the middle of the night on Monday, it wasn’t one he could fulfill with his in-house stock. Fortunately, Martinello’s friend, Evan Flores, knew such a jersey existed, and who had it – a 34 year-old travel agent from Queen’s, New York named Benjamin Weil.
Over text, Martinello and Flores put the full court press on Weil to relinquish the jersey, and after some negotiation, he did. With jersey now in hand, the pair drove 10 hours from New York City to Toronto to hand-deliver the garment and troll history was made.
I reached out to Weil to get his reaction to all the hoopla surrounding his jersey.
Sportsnet.ca: How did you end up selling the jersey to Drake?
Benjamin Weil: On Monday I got a text from a friend of a friend that runs a clothing brand here in New York and runs a vintage clothing shop in Brooklyn called “Select Vintage” and he has sold things before to Drake’s people on behalf of Drake. They’ve come to him before for Raptors stuff.
They contacted him asking him if there was any way he could get a Dell Curry jersey or if they had even seen one before or knew anybody that had one.
His friend, Evan Flores, knew that I had had one. I posted about it on my Instagram page maybe a year and a half ago because I have a big collection and I knew this is a super rare jersey. He contacted me and he’s like, “Hey, do you have that Dell Curry jersey? I have to have it.” He was being very persistent.
I was like, “Okay. I’m not selling it. I have no interest in selling it. It’s one of my favourite jerseys that’s very rare and I’m sure you’ve never even seen one.”
He’s like, “No, I have to have it.”
He asked me all these questions. What size is it? What would it take for me to sell it? He even said, “It’s not for me, but I can’t tell you who it’s for.”
So that brought up in my mind, this is for somebody special, somebody that has to have this jersey is obviously someone that’s a big Raptors fan and somebody that wants to troll the Warriors, that would be in the spotlight and that led me to believe there was only one person that could possibly want it.
He wouldn’t tell me that it was for Drake, but I figured, so we came to an agreement. He and Al met me the next day to pick it up and then they actually drove it up to Toronto.
SN: Walk me through that process of you deciding you’re willing to sell…
BW: So, there was a bit of negotiation but sort of understanding like, you know, this jersey is going to him and it’s going to be on national television and it’s going to be in the spotlight and going to make for such a huge story. Everyone’s going to be talking about, “On this date Drake showed up wearing this jersey for Game 1.” I knew it was going to be a crazy story. So, knowing that is what pushed me over the edge. If it was just some other fan I would still own the jersey.
SN: How much did you sell it for?
BW: I apologize – I cannot disclose that. It was part of the agreement in the sale.
SN: In the six figures?
BW: Oh my God, no. I wish.
SN: For people who will be skeptical and don’t believe that a random guy is the actual person who sold the jersey to Drake, how can you prove it or authenticate it?
BW: Honestly if you look at the pictures, you can see the autograph and I can’t imagine that it’s easy to replicate that kind of an autograph. It’s in silver Sharpie. It’s in the exact same place. You can see the front, the back, the size. I thought of putting a little mark on the jersey before handing it off – like my name, Instagram handle or signature on the jock tag to make it clear I wasn’t lying – just to make it clear who it belongs to, but I thought it would be rude and didn’t want to deface the jersey in that way.
SN: When did you realize that the jersey had gotten to Drake?
BW: …They texted me and said, “It’s been delivered.” That was on Thursday afternoon. I wasn’t watching the game later to see the jersey. I’m a big basketball fan, so I would have been watching anyways, but when I saw [it], I was reacting along with the rest of the world.
SN: Are you a Raptors fan?
BW: No. I was actually a Charlotte Hornets fan growing up. That’s why I have the jersey to begin with, because I was a huge Dell Curry fan. I have some of his Hornets jerseys and that’s why when I saw this one – I actually got this one about six years ago off eBay from a former Raptors player that was selling off his collection and wanted to make some extra cash. I knew I had to get this jersey at the time.
SN: Which Raptors player did you purchase it from?
BW: Michael Stewart.
SN: Yogi! Was this the only jersey you bought from him?
BW: No, there were others. It was somebody that he basically had selling his things for him. There were some things of his specifically that were just random things that you wouldn’t have gotten from anyone else. I purchased the Dell Curry, Vince Carter, Morris Peterson and Alvin Williams.
SN: But you’re not a Raptors fan, you were a Hornets fan. Why did you want all those other guys?
BW: I’m a jersey collector. This is what I do in the first place. I have an Instagram dedicated to my jerseys and I mean I have over 1,500 jerseys. There are only about 200 pictures posted on there currently but I posted a picture of that jersey specifically because it meant a lot to me.
SN: The video of Dell and Sonya Curry when they realized Drake was wearing it went viral. What was that like for you as a Dell Curry fan?
BW: I felt bad. I figured there might be some opportunity in my life to meet him. If so, I’ll make sure to take advantage of that and apologize.
— The Undefeated (@TheUndefeated) May 31, 2019
SN: I don’t think Dell was too worried and Stephen had fun with it. It’s just pettiness in its highest form. Are you from the Carolinas? Why are you a Hornets fan?
BW: Honestly, as a kid, I was. I was like seven years old when Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning were with the team and “LJ” was “Grandmama” and there were all these advertisements and probably the colours had something to do with it, and like every young kid I cheered for them for years.
SN: Are you a Drake fan?
BW: Not particularly. Nothing against him, I’m just not a big fan of his music. There are certainly songs that I like but I don’t seek it out if you will.
SN: Drake doesn’t necessarily know you but what do you want him to know about the jersey?
BW: I’m happy to help make the story and make the impact that he was probably hoping for. I think everyone really enjoyed it, but I was a huge Dell Curry fan. If he’s interested in selling it back, I’m ready to buy it with open arms and a wad of cash.
SN: If you are willing to buy it for the price you sold it for, you could have just leant it to him.
BW: That’s true. If it got messed up they didn’t want to feel responsible that they had to get it back to me. So, they just wanted to buy it and not worry about it.
SN: Has your rooting interest for the NBA Finals changed?
BW: I was a big Dell Curry fan, so I’ve been following Stephen since college. I’ve been a big fan of his ever since his Davidson days. I’ve been rooting for the Warriors throughout the last 10 years at this point. So, I’m still rooting for him to succeed but I really want a good series for the Raptors. It’s very clear, it’s going to be a great series.