Toronto to host 2016 NBA all-star game; Drake to help rebrand Raptors
Published Monday, September 30, 2013 10:36AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, September 30, 2013 12:08PM EDT
The NBA has confirmed Toronto will host the 2016 all-star game -- a move that will see both on-and-off court stars come to the city in a bid to help mend the image of the struggling Raptors franchise.
In addition to bringing basketball’s best to Toronto, the Raptors have named Grammy award-winner Drake as the team's global ambassador.
"We couldn't be more proud to have the NBA all-star game here," Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment President and CEO Tim Leiweke said during a news conference at the Air Canada Centre. "We are blessed that the sport has taken off in this great country."
Leiweke also announced that MSLE will be rebranding the team -- everything but the Raptors’ name -- with the help of rap star Drake.
"This is about the Raptors. It's a new day. It's a new age," Leiweke said.
Drake, who attended the press conference, said he is truly honoured to be a part of the change.
"I love this city with all my heart. I am extremely excited to be a part of the team I grew up with," Drake said.
Aside from helping with rebranding of the Raptors, it is unclear exactly what Drake's role ambassador will be with the team.
Drake said he is a season ticket holder and wants to be involved with the team as much as possible.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said the NBA all-star game is one the most anticipated sporting events of the year.
"This is an amazing opportunity to draw economic growth while showcasing our vibrant city on the world stage," Ford said.
The 2016 NBA all-star game will coincide with the Raptors' 20th anniversary and will mark the first time the game has been held outside of the U.S.
It is expected to generate $100 million in revenue for the City of Toronto.
The 2014 all-star game will be held in New Orleans and the 2015 game will be hosted by New York.
In 2010, Drake told ESPN in 2010 that he is a "Raptors fan to the death," and has often been seen courtside at the team’s home games.
The alignment of a rap star and an NBA team is not without precedent, as Drake’s sometimes collaborator Jay-Z took a small ownership role with the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.
Jay-Z is also a certified NBA and MLB sports agent.
The Raptors have not made the playoffs since their first round exit in 2007-2008.
With files from The Canadian Press