NBA Lifestyle

NBA Cloth Talk: A history of Drake's influence on the Toronto Raptors' uniforms

Welcome to Cloth Talk! An ode to the phrase coined by DJ Khaled, NBA.com's Gilbert McGregor and Kyle Irving delve into all things style in the NBA. From uniform reveals to sneaker choices and everything in between, the two experts give their takes and provide clarity on concepts that are impossible to ignore.

This time, the two discuss Drake's influence on style in the NBA in conjunction with the release of his latest album, "Certified Lover Boy."

Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): The Boy is back.

Grammy-award-winning artist and Toronto Raptors Global Ambassador Drake has released his highly-anticipated "Certified Lover Boy" album, and, to quote Drake himself, the world is in disarray.

In the lead-up, we got tweets from LeBron James and Kevin Durant, while Giannis Antetokounmpo took to his Instagram story to shout Drake out. The album itself shouts out LeBron, Giannis, and, of course, mentions talks of "running it back" with Kawhi Leonard.

Of course, the Kawhi mention brings things full circle to Drake's impact on the Raptors franchise, as he's a mainstay during playoff runs on the sidelines at Scotiabank Arena and the team has donned the October's Very Own black and gold on uniforms in each of the last six seasons.

That being said, I feel like there's no better time to talk about Drake's influence on the league's style, and what better place to start than with those unis.

Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): First thing's first. Drake did everything I was hoping for with CLB and I appreciate him giving me music to listen to in full, on loop over the foreseeable future.

But back to the jerseys, you and I have both long been fans of pretty much any edition of the Raptors' black, gold and white uniforms. It's a colour combination that simply does not miss, just like the artist the jerseys honour.

I'm interested to see if and how the Raptors keep that tradition going this year, but I know I'll like them when (and if) they do drop.

Everything's falling back into place. The Raptors will be back at the OVO Athletic Centre for practices, donning practice jerseys with the OVO owl featured prominently. The arena will have new music they can bump during warmups and the game night-in and night-out. What a time to be alive.

McGregor: Ahh, I see what you did there. I like it.

We gotta dig deeper into these uniforms, though. We're both partial to black and gold colourways of the uniforms, this I know. But if I recall correctly, a little while back you ranked all of the Raptors uniforms, so let's take it up a notch.

In what order would you rank the OVO uniforms?

Irving: Well, you know we have to build up anticipation, so let's get started from the bottom.

I actually think this past year's OVO edition uniforms may have been my least favourite of the collection so far. I'm not exactly sure what was missing, but they just felt kind of off. I will say, I liked them better on-court than I did in pictures, but they'd still come in last for me.

McGregor: "Let's get started from the bottom." You, sir, are on a roll.

That's interesting, but looking at them and thinking about it, I'd rank them last as well. In theory, I like what they tried to do with the shorts, but it… doesn't exactly work. It's like, 1990s college basketball vibes, but I'm not a fan of it for the Raps.

I guess it's on me now, so at fourth, I'm actually gonna go to the 2018-19 edition. Yeah, that was the championship season and all, but I think the black and gold colourway is what makes this set pop, so the white uniforms aren't exactly my favourite of the bunch.

Again, I think it's the shorts. The one-leg chevron just isn't for me, which is tough since it's now on the uniforms full-time.

Irving: I hear you on that. I think if they did something more with the shorts, or even the back of the uniform - like a gold nameplate or something - it could have worked. But they looked extremely plain. I do like the white and gold colour scheme, though. I'd love to see them give that another go sometime in the near future, just with better execution.

Coming in next for me - even though the Slam cover with Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and The Boy himself makes it tough not to put them at No. 1 - are the original OVO edition uniforms. They're plain. There's not a lot to them. But they're almost nostalgic in a sense, just because of that magazine cover.

The photoshoot with the whole core team was too clean. It was a great way to roll out the franchise's new Global Ambassador and bring a certain type of swagger to the Raptors organization.

McGregor: Man, I actually came really close to putting those low on the list, but being the originals make them my No. 2 actually.

I'll preface this by saying I love all brands! But I think that uniform colourway didn't get the benefit of being placed on a Nike template. Those were introduced in the 2015-16 season and worn through 2017, which is when Nike took over from Adidas.

They're just an alternate of the black/red alternates, someone that's nice with the Photoshop skills could probably switch this over to make it fit that colour scheme. But this 2020 SLAM shoot gives that uniform template the shine it deserves.

Now that you know my No. 2, I guess I kinda showed my hand already with my chevron statement, meaning the 2017-18 OVO uniforms - the first with Nike - land at third for me.

I'll always think about Toronto eliminating the Washington Wizards in these back in 2018. So they'll always have that, but, again the shorts, are something I don't love.

Irving: I was gonna bring those black and gold chevron's in at No. 2, because I thought the colour scheme worked significantly better than it did with the white and gold ones. But I'm still with you in saying I still don't love the shorts either.

I believe that means that we came in with the same No. 1 ranking.

The uniforms the Raptors wore on Christmas Day in 2020.

The reason I show you the back instead of the front is because that's what I like so much about them. How they adopted the same nameplate style from the old school Raptors' uniform, but keeping the smooth black and gold colourway. The front of the uniform is very simple, but I like the font and I think they're the best of the bunch.

McGregor: 🤝 🤝 a man of simplicity, I like it.

We're on the same page, of course. I feel like if anyone's read one of our Cloth Talks, we tend to rate the simple designs highest. It's little things like the nameplate, the number font, and the fact that the chest reads "Toronto" that really sets it apart from the other ones.

An underrated detail: The stripe on the side is jagged like the pinstripes on the Raptors inaugural uniforms, which is like a cherry on top for a uniform that pays homage to the era.

Irving: I wouldn't be shocked if I'm stealing this thought right out of your brain here.

But if we're keeping it within the genre, within the Nike brand and loop in popularity...

It honestly kind of shocks me we haven't already seen a Houston Rockets x Travis Scott uniform collaboration yet.

McGregor: Imagine if we get a jersey with the backwards Swoosh he puts on his sneakers? Maybe with the same colourway of his Jordan 1s? I feel like brown could work on a uniform.

That's a great call.

What I'm going to suggest I think might already be in the works, but I'll take it to Detroit, where Big Sean is the "Creative Director of Innovation." It's not exactly Global Ambassador level, but his logo's already on their practice uniforms and he did a collaboration with Mitchell and Ness.

With Cade Cunningham leading the way for the new era of Deeeetroit Basketball, there will be plenty of eyes on the Pistons. I'm sure will see Big Sean on the sidelines soon, too. Why not have uniforms for him?

Irving: The 2011 version of me would've purchased a Big Sean-Pistons collab. uniform so fast your head would spin. Don't get me wrong, it still works in 2021, too. Sign me up for either of those suggestions, honestly.

I hope someone's listening to us.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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