TORONTO - With all eyes in the basketball universe focused on the Raptors in 2016, Canada's team is positioned to look a whole lot different.
With the exception of their occasionally contested team name, the Raptors are slated for a full brand makeover by the time NBA All-Star weekend rolls into town in February of 2016.
Alongside Drake - Grammy award-winning artist and the team's new global ambassador - and an eclectic panel which included NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, Tim Leiweke revealed an initiative to utilize the Toronto-born rap star in redesigning the Raptors' image.
"We are now going to submit to the league a new application for new branding and a new image and new colours, not a new name, but new branding," MLSE's chief executive announced at Monday morning's news conference. "Drake will be an ambassador and help us forge this new vision, this new buzz, this new excitement for where we're taking this organization."
This process has already begun according to Leiweke, who will work with MLSE, in conjunction with the NBA to complete these changes prior to the 2015-16 campaign, a monumental season for the franchise. Not only will Toronto welcome the NBA's annual showcase that year, it will also mark the organization's 20th anniversary season.
"This is a team and this is a sport that's going to rock this city going forward," Leiweke said. "The NBA All-Star game gives us two years now to do some extraordinary things as we head to our 20th anniversary and create one of the greatest basketball opportunities, moments and franchises for the NBA."
Leiweke has enlisted the help of Toronto's most prominent entertainer. Drake will lend a hand in remaking the Raptors' brand in addition to unofficially hosting events throughout All-Star week, but his role with the club could be even greater.
"We've only had initial meetings thus far," said Drake, who will have a permanent office right next to Leiweke's at MLSE headquarters. "I want to be as involved as possible. Obviously I have a busy schedule coming up, I just released an album, but anything they need me for I want to be here for, anything that can help the Raptors grow in the future."
"Obviously I won't be able to be in the building everyday but I'm extremely dedicated to it," the 26-year-old rap icon continued. "I do take it very seriously as a new job and as a new chapter in my life so it's not just something for the sake of all the cameras. I'm extremely dedicated to this franchise."
Per Leiweke, Drake will be heavily involved in the design of the Toronto's new logo and image, while suggestions from fans will also be incorporated. As for the team name itself, despite earlier speculation that it could be changed - and the best efforts of Leiweke - it will remain as is.
"I would have changed the name," Leiweke admitted. "We took a vote and I lost."
"There's a lot of people that are smart in this organization, that have been here a while and they made a compelling case where the issue is not the name. So we're going to go with them on that one and I'm 100 per cent supportive."
New general manager Masai Ujiri made a strong argument for keeping the name and focusing on something far more important, something that will be crucial for this team as they prepare to host the league's marquee midseason event in 2016.
"Anything you do, for me, is all based on winning," Ujiri maintained. "You can have the best name, worst name, you can have any colours you want if you have the right basketball players and that's our responsibility."
"This is all great and this is beautiful for the city," he continued, "but at the end of the day my responsibility and my team's responsibility is to put that basketball team on the floor that's going to go out and try and win out there."
Neither Leiweke nor Ujiri could, or cared to dodge the pressure that comes with hosting the world's best players for the most star-studded event that professional basketball has to offer. With great opportunity comes great responsibility.
"I think the 20th anniversary and All-Star game and the rebranding are all great," Leiweke cautioned, "but if we don't win and take advantage of the moment of truth, they'll all be wasted."
That leaves the organization 28 months to right the ship. Entering their 19th season, the Raptors have missed the playoffs in each of the last five years. They've won just one playoff series, they haven't had an all-star since Chris Bosh in 2010 and they have failed, time and time again to reestablish themselves as a relevant NBA entity following the departure of Vince Carter over eight years ago.
The challenge is simple in concept; win, but slightly more convoluted in execution.