It took some hustle and a 10-hour drive by a vintage jersey store owner from Brooklyn for Drake to pull off his epic courtside troll of the Golden State Warriors in their first NBA Finals game against the Toronto Raptors Thursday night.
In his quest to get in the head of superstar point guard Steph Curry, the hip hop star, who serves as the Raptors’ “global ambassador,” sported a signed, vintage Raptors jersey of Curry’s father, Dell, who played with the Toronto team from 1999 to 2002.
All eyes were on the basketball court in Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena for Game 1 Thursday as it was the first time Canada’s sole NBA team had reached the Finals in the 24 years it has been part of the league. The Raptors ended up besting the Warriors 118 to 109.
While Drake made the trolling look easy during the game, from jawing with another Warriors star, Draymond Green, to picking lint out of Curry’s hair and later joking he would offer it up on eBay, getting the actual jersey had been anything but simple.
Not an easy jersey to find
It took a bit of luck, some hard work and a lot of time on the road for Al Martiniello, owner of Select Vintage in the Bushwick neighbourhood in New York’s Brooklyn borough.
“Drake is a once-in-a-lifetime generational artist, so for me to do this for him and be a part of this is amazing. It was nuts,” Martiniello told CBC News from his store.
The adventure began around 2 a.m. ET on Monday when a member of Drake’s entourage contacted Martiniello looking for a Dell Curry jersey.
“I got that request, I was like, ‘Wow, that is the ultimate troll jersey.'”
The 29-year old had been sourcing sports jerseys for Drake for about a year, but this latest request was no slam dunk.
“I had very low confidence that I was able to find it because it’s a very odd jersey,” he said.
“As somebody who’s been collecting jerseys his entire life, I don’t know if I’ve ever actually seen a Dell Curry authentic retail one.”
He immediately began reaching out to his network of collectors, and within a couple of hours, through a friend, he tracked down a Dell Curry fan in Queens.
The next step: convincing him to part with a beloved collectible.
‘Listen, this is for Drake’
“It was not cheap because he didn’t want to sell it,” Martiniello said. “I basically had to name drop and say, ‘Listen, this is for Drake.'”
He wouldn’t disclose how much he or the rap star paid for it.
He then had to figure out how to get it from Queens to Toronto in time for Thursday night’s game. Martiniello was worried overnight shipping wouldn’t get the jersey to Drake on time.
The only solution, he decided, was to close his store (where he’s the only employee), hop in the car and drive to Toronto.
“There was adrenaline pumping through my veins. Like, that entire drive, I was wired,” he said.
When he got to the border, he told the customs agents exactly what he was doing, and they had a good sense of humour about it and let him pass.
Ten hours later, the jersey was in Drake’s hands.
A fan of the 6ix
Martiniello didn’t get to stay and savour the moment. He and his friend who had made the road trip with him were back on the road to New York. After closing up shop for two days, he needed to get back to business.
He says he didn’t see the impact the jersey made until he got home in the early hours Friday morning.
That’s when his phone started blowing up with text and Instagram messages, and he saw that the jersey was a hit.
He says he’s happy to have played a role in a historic night in Toronto basketball.
“It’s great. It was a lot of pressure, but I wouldn’t want to have it any other way.”
He says he’s happy for the city of Toronto and wishes the Raptors well.
“I’m definitely not a Golden State fan. I’m tired of seeing them win, so I think the 6ix needs something,” he said, using Toronto’s beloved nickname, believed to have been coined by Drake.
WATCH | Al Martiniello tells the story of how he tracked down the Dell Curry jersey for Drake and delivered it to Toronto in time for Game 1 of the NBA Finals: