Drake congratulates Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) as he leaves the court with three minutes left in the in second half action in Game 4 of the NBA Eastern Conference final against the Milwaukee Bucks in Toronto on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. The Raptors defeat the Bucks 120-102. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Drake congratulates Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) as he leaves the court with three minutes left in the in second half action in Game 4 of the NBA Eastern Conference final against the Milwaukee Bucks in Toronto on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. The Raptors defeat the Bucks 120-102. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Drake passions heat up with Raptors’ run as crucial game approaches

The off-court beef has been equal parts invigorating and infuriating for fans of both teams

By now, Drake’s relentless grandstanding on behalf of his beloved Toronto Raptors is to be expected.

And so too, then, is the wrath of Milwaukee Bucks’ fans now excoriating the Canadian rapper for a series of escalating taunts.

READ MORE: Raptors beat Bucks 105-99 to move within 1 game of NBA Finals

The off-court beef has been equal parts invigorating and infuriating for fans of both teams, with Drake’s gleeful jeers only goading more cross-border smack-talk on the eve of Saturday’s pivotal Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference final at Scotiabank Arena.

The mantle south of the border was taken up Thursday night by Mallory Edens, the daughter of Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Wes Edens, who trolled the 6 God by sitting courtside at Game 5 in a shirt featuring Drake nemesis Pusha T.

Drake clapped back on Instagram by changing his profile avatar to one of Mallory Edens. Clicking on the photo leads to multiple images and video clips that include cheering Raptors fans in the Scotiabank Arena’s tailgate zone, Jurassic Park, as they emerged victorious Thursday to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

“All is fair in war and war and trust me, I’ll still get you tickets to ovo fest,” reads one card, referring to Drake’s star-studded summer music festival.

Another quote is overlaid on a photo of what appears to be a recording studio with a large window that looks onto the CN Tower: “Meet me in Jurassic Park at 8:30 whole city should be out like the sun… history is upon us.”

Several Bucks fans, meanwhile, showed up in “F—k Drake” t-shirts at Thursday’s game in Milwaukee.

Drake wasn’t there to witness this in person.

Instead the Raptors’ global ambassador celebrated with his entourage amid jubilant Toronto fans at Jurassic Park, pacing on an adjacent stage as critical possessions came and went, and beaming as the buzzer confirmed another win for Canada’s lone NBA team.

Drake’s ties to the team go well beyond the run-of-the mill superfan.

His powerful OVO brand is woven deeply into the team — literally, when you consider those Drake-inspired uniforms they’ve donned for the series, not to mention the team’s practice facility, recently renamed the OVO Athletic Centre.

But while Drake’s ardent fandom makes for juicy headlines and reliably animated reaction shots for TV cameras, it has raised questions about reasonable courtside decorum, which has included jabs at rival coaches, referees and players alike.

Drake’s antics have clearly hit a nerve.

Earlier in the series, a Milwaukee radio station put a temporary ban on Drake tunes. The hosts at 103.7 KISS-FM said they hoped their “break from Drake” would help the Bucks squash the Raptors.

Earlier in the series, Drake weathered hometown wariness, too, for a supposed curse when many superstitious sports fans pointed out that past teams and athletes he has supported often lose.

Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press

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