“I’m a Raptors fan to the death.”

Drake is in Indianapolis for the 2010 Indiana State Fair—a carnival of sorts with rides and bucket loads of fried foods—where he’s set to perform. The 23-year-old-rapper, who just released his debut album Thank Me Later in June, is being interviewed by The Life, a documentary series aired by ESPN, about a number of things—including the Toronto Raptors.

“We just, I”—he sighs—“and I’m a Raptors fan,” says Drake, who’s wearing a plain black T-shirt and black baggy jeans tucked into black Nike sneakers. “I’m very patriotic about my city, but now that Chris [Bosh] isn’t there we need something. Something has to give.”

He continues: “We’ll pull it together, Toronto is a great city. We’ve had some great players, we have a great facility, a great spirit. I think eventually Toronto could be one of the top contenders in the league, I hope.” 

Drake, like most Raptors fans at the time, seemed sanguine about the team’s future—but also disappointed. His hometown squad just lost its star player and the eighth and final playoff spot to the Chicago Bulls, finishing an agonizing one game behind. 

Over the next few years, the Raptors, under general manager Bryan Colangelo, would try to build on the roster: re-sign Amir Johnson, trade for Kyle Lowry, draft Terrence Ross, extend DeMar DeRozan’s contract, give Andre Bargnani an even bigger role in the offense, and trade for Rudy Gay (the team thought he’d be their new savior). Still, season after season, the ball club finished with ignominious records (22-60 in 2010-2011; 22-43 in 2011-2012; and 34-48 in 2012-2013) and continued to miss the playoffs. 

But things were about to change. And while Drake couldn’t have predicted it then, he was about to help breathe new life into the struggling franchise.