Learn why Drake is diving into grassroots hoops to inspire the youth, unarchive cult classics, and bring out the most modern performance products.
Few handles hone the brand recognition of that as @champagnepapi. Posting content for over 118 million followers to enjoy and dissect, Drake’s Instagram page ranges from family photos to silly selfies. The thirst for anything and everything associated with The Boy remains at an all-time high, blurring the line between everyday fodder and promotional tools.
Amidst meme-filled galleries and larger-than-life performances with The Backstreet Boys, Drake showed love to the kids in Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League by introducing them as the face of his first NOCTA hoops collection.
Before the post, Champagne Papi surprised the athletes with an array of items during their summer stop in Kansas City, shooting footage of the prospects in action and releasing the capsule at retail shortly after the prized Peach Jam tournament.
That attention to detail can only come from someone that truly considers ball to be life.
While Drake operates as both a futurist and an archivist in music, the same appreciation for innovation and celebration shows in his first run of performance basketball products. From behind the scenes at NOCTA to on the scene at EYBL, Boardroom breaks down the dense and detailed drop.
What is NOCTA?
Following a collaborative endorsement with Jordan Brand in the early ’10s and a sabotaged shoe deal with Adidas in 2018, Drake announced a Nike deal in 2020. With both parties looking for revenge, they spawned NOCTA: a sub-label under the Swoosh informed by tactical outerwear.
In the early onset, NOCTA was defined by bright bubble jackets and Hot Step sneakers. Over time, the line launched capsule collections that explored golf with other sports sets to take on Drake’s design direction. In essence, NOCTA allows Nike to elevate the energy around a range of product categories through Champagne Papi promotion.
As a global ambassador for his hometown Toronto Raptors and an amateur athlete that plays target practice with Chris “Lethal Shooter” Matthews, Drizzy is embedded in the game. This NOCTA x Nike Basketball Collection apparel range represents his passion for the sport in a manner he can endorse and use.
It also highlights his underrated ability as a curator.
Much like Drake and his producers possess the ear to flip a Playa Fly cut from ’95 and make it a No. 1 record in ’22, his fashion farm at NOCTA exudes the same know-how. Case in point? Remixing an Anfernee Hardaway hat from ’97 and making it appeal to a modern market. Subtly, both bring-backs nod to Drake’s Memphis roots.
Notably, the NOCTA x Nike Foamposite Cap from the brand’s basketball capsule resurrects the infamous Air Penny hat from Hardaway’s Orlando era, distinguished by a synthetic bill and 1 Cent branding that mirrored his $180 signature shoe.
Chopped and screwed by NOCTA, the ’22 version slows down the same ethos by draping the iconic cap in a noir palette with their signature branding.
Like much of Drake’s most niche work, it’s ironically over the heads of the masses — but unlike artists or designers stuck in the past, Drake doesn’t use nostalgia as a crutch. He uses it as a pole vault. His ability to unarchive oddities makes him unique, but his ability to connect with emerging trends that represent the youth makes him transcendent.
As such, Drake is the first Nike ambassador to bring basketball’s modern tight trend to market. All told, his love for basketball and NOCTA’s ability to tackle an array of categories all align for this collection.
And his decision to debut the capsule on teenage talent as opposed to today’s NBA All-Stars speaks to just how smart and forward-thinking he is.
Regarded by Billboard as The Artist of the 2010s, Drake still strikes a nerve with fans in their 20s, 30s, and 40s who had formidable experiences scored by his singles.
As an artist and an investor, Drake’s demo knows no bounds regarding young professional appeal, whether performing with Nelly Furtado as part of OVO Fest or putting millions on the line with Stake. Still, the kids set the trends and decide what’s cool.
In 2022, this proves true in the convergence space of prep basketball, social media, and music catching fire.
Those that track the intersection of culture and hip-hop will let you know that records are broken on AAU highlight mixtapes as much as they are on Monday nights at Magic City.
Regarding high school hoops, Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League, abbreviated as EYBL, is The Mecca of Grassroots Basketball. The Swoosh-sponsored circuit consists of about 40 prestigious teams, full of influential talent tapped into the culture because they are the culture.
“So many guys from the EYBL have since transitioned to the NBA,” Jamal James, Nike Basketball Sports Marketing Manager, told Boardroom at Peach Jam. “Everyone knows Drake, and he’s taken a keen interest in what we’ve done in the grassroots basketball space. With his Nike deal, he wanted to collaborate with the kids in our EYBL program on apparel.”
By aligning with EYBL, Drake is showing love to the next generation of hoopers and an era of listeners that still quote his lyrics as Instagram captions. It’s a win for EYBL, Aubrey, and the Swoosh in the ever-competitive space of knowing what’s next.
“Nike has a goal to cast as wide of a net as possible,” said James when speaking on the importance of EYBL. “We take a lot of pride in the look and feel of the league. One of the things I’ve tried to do over the years is to make sure everything is cutting edge, and we try to use the creativity of the people and product at Nike to really put our stamp and creative flair on it.”
With the OVO head honcho seeding products to the next star at Kentucky or Duke, the cool cache culminates in an aesthetic with which few brands, ballers, or artists can compete. When considering kids in the EYBL program only have a small window of time to impress Juwan Howard or Geno Auriemma, the “look good, play good” ethos matters.
“There’s a level of euphoria that comes with it,” James said of the EYBL apparel that’s gifted to players but often available for purchase at Peach Jam. “It’s akin to when you’re going to Foot Locker to get that Jordan release. Typically we’ll have lines around the corner for people trying to get that merch because it says, ‘I was here.'”
This summer, EYBL boys and girls got their hands on the latest NOCTA x Nike capsule before anyone else. Right now, an array of the products are available online at both NOCTA and Nike with Aubrey offering the only one-sleeve tights on the Swoosh site.
As summer hoops transition to school seasons, one has to wonder if Nike athletes in the college or pro game will be brash enough to wear NOCTA’s heat-map headbands or ’00s-inspired finger sleeves in the regular season or playoff action.
For decades, the relationship between rappers and roundball has been one of great stories.
In the 2000s, Jay-Z famously showed up at Sebastian Telfair’s home games. The prodigal point guard went on to go pro straight out of high school, hosting his draft party at Hov’s 40/40 club.
Just the same, talented teenagers have been responsible for influencing fashion on basketball’s big stage before they could get a bag from a big company or even a tag.
Throughout the 2010s, high flyers like Jalen Green populated the style of short shorts while Jelly Fam favorites like Jalen Lecque built a brand and a movement before they even played a pro or college game.
Embedded in EYBL and amplified by Nike, Drake is intersecting trends with products in a way that promotes players and keeps his brand young. A playable performance product might not fly like merch or a retro release, but it offers wearable value to those that also love the sport.
Entering the “Legacy Drake” season of his career, Aubrey Graham is making moves, memes, and millions. To capture longevity and attain a new audience, he’s crossing over into the sportswear scene with a heartfelt craftiness that’s rawer than his peers.
Trust, he’s not playing games.