The painfully symbolic leap across the bay brings to mind the daily monotonous agony of words such as "gentrification," "disruption," "tech-bro," and other hallmarks of contemporary Silicon Valley culture. The Warriors are an algorithm with sneakers that has everyone figured out. They seem invincible. They don't play angry. They smile as they leisurely destroy their rivals.
In the other corner, the story improves a bit. The Toronto Raptors are bringing a touch of credibility to this whole "world champion" racket that North American sports have been for a century or so. Their star player, Kawhi Leonard, doesn't speak much and has a goofy laugh. Can he possibly counter the endless grins and constant jawing of a team that casually expects to devour the easy prey of the Eastern Conference?
That has yet to be seen. But the man doing a significant portion of the devouring this year isn’t on the court at all. Toronto rapper Drake has been monopolizing the courtside scene and the headlines for weeks. He pokes, and prods, and cajoles, and gloats. He waves goodbye to a star player fouling out. He scowls at every Warriors on-court victory display. He engages in direct confrontations with opposing players. They respond, which only adds to his growing power. He's making people who don't care about sports at all care about sports, willing to suddenly stop the feed if there is pop star drama as opposed to another box score.
Sure Drake may be annoying. You may not like his personality or even his music. But the more headlines Drake steals, the better. It's better for the Raptors. They have someone to do their trash-talking for them and leave them to their studies. It's better for the Warriors. They now have a foil that will earn the ire of even their detractors. It's better for the NBA and its fans. There's a new plot. And it's not the same LeBron vs. Team X that has been slowly suffocating the sport ever since 2007.
In fact, since 1999, only eight different teams out of the NBA's 30 have won in the finals. The Larry O'Brien championship trophy has been handed out 15 times to only four different teams in that same period: the San Antonio Spurs, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Miami Heat and of course, the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are making their fifth-straight appearance in the finals. Even die-hard basketball fans are getting bored.
When 75 percent of the winners over a staggering 20-year period belong to only 13 percent of the entire league, it's hard for some fans to keep interest. Should the Warriors find a way to win again this year, the ratio will become even worse. Drake’s antics in a way represent the rage of the fan from the small market and the second-tier city, which is most places. This is Toronto’s chance — and they may not be here again for a long time. Who are we to judge the city, and its biggest supporter, from making the most of it?
Professional sports at its best is about drama. The same victors year in and year out make for poor theater. But Drake's antics replenish a little of what's been lost. Criticized by some as being a "soft" rapper, he is shouting across the court at what has been characterized as a "soft" team with "soft" players. Drake's disgust at his nemeses as they elegantly move in front of him is the stuff of great mythology with a slight tweak: This neo-Narcissus hates his own image. That he has been called out for having tattoos of both Golden State's Steph Curry and Kevin Durant's jersey numbers only adds to the love/hate intrigue.
In Game 3 of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Drake was missing. It was a noticeable absence. The once-fierce Jay Z was glued to his seat with all the bliss of a happily married billionaire in a baseball cap. He's a former majority owner of a basketball team nowhere near making the NBA Finals. He's just hoping everyone has a good time. Come back for the next game, Drake. And for the game after that, if there is one. The people don't need you simply trolling on Instagram from the safety of your own home. The NBA — and its fans — need you on the court.
Christopher Mosley has been a writer and editor since 2006. His writing can be found online and in print at outlets such as NBC Latino, The Tulsa Voice, and The Dallas Morning News.