It’s not just a Drake thing — the entire Canadian music business is feeling gleeful over Toronto’s NBA championship. Among the celebrants is Toronto-bred Chris Taylor, the global president of music at Entertainment One, the global music and filmed company based in the land of Raptors. He was at the team’s very first game in 1995 at SkyDome, but since moving to Los Angeles in September, he’s had to enjoy the excitement taking place in Toronto from afar.
This was the first time Toronto made the NBA finals in the team’s 24-year history, and the first time a franchise outside America ever won the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy, beating the Golden State Warriors 114-110 in game 6.
Between 1.5-2 million people are expected to line the streets for the victory parade today as the team moves through the downtown core atop an open-air double decker bus, ending with a massive rally at Nathan Phillips Square. Toronto Mayor John Tory has encouraged everyone to come out.
Taylor, who was named one of Variety‘s International Music Leaders last year, is giving his Toronto staff time off to attend. “At eOne, we have a section of the day where people are going to be heading out to go watch the parade,” Taylor says. “I’ll watch the highlights somewhere.”
For game 6 Thursday night, before taking in a show by Canada’s Operators, Taylor gathered in downtown L.A. at Plan Check Kitchen with about a dozen eOne staffers, including his boss Darren Throop and basketball game virgin Ted May, the U.K.’s managing director and head of international.
The rest were “half Canadian, half from down here,” Taylor says, “but I think everybody wanted Toronto to win. It’s funny — in L.A. you’re either a Lakers fan or maybe a Clippers fan, but you are generally not a Golden State fan. It’s a bit of a rivalry. Even in the bar we were at, it was mostly people rooting for the Raptors.”
Taylor, a one-time lawyer who sold his practice in 2016 when he accepted the eOne position, used to represent Drake — the Raptors’ global ambassador, as if that needs clarifying. “I love Drake. I’m happy for him. He’s a genuine fan. Always has been,” he says.
As for Taylor, who grew up in Windsor, Ontario, across the river from Detroit, he was a big Pistons fans, long before Canada had an NBA team in his lifetime (Toronto Huskies was the first in 1946-47 for the Basketball Association of America, the forerunner to the NBA).
When the Raptors launched, he bought tickets to SkyDome (now Rogers Centre) to watch them play the now-defunct, then-first-year expansion team Vancouver Grizzlies (now Memphis Grizzlies) at the immense domed stadium in downtown Toronto, where the team initially had to play. They later moved to Scotiabank Arena, formerly the Air Canada Centre.
“At the last minute, we decided to go because it was the first game and we ended up getting tickets almost up by the roof, so far away,” Taylor recalls. “It was pretty crazy those first few seasons when they were playing there, because the court would be sitting in one corner of SkyDome with the seating around it. Some of the seats were so far away from the court you could barely even see. You needed binoculars to see the players.”
Radio magnate Allan Slaight of Slaight Communications was one of the businessmen who helped bring an NBA franchise to Toronto. Gary Slaight, a businessman and music industry vet in his own right, is his son and a good friend of Taylor’s who has generously treated him to his courtside seats over the years.
“Once you sit there you don’t want to sit anywhere else,” says Taylor. “It’s incredible. You get a sense of the speed of the game, the size of the guys, adding: “It can be a little scary sometimes, people jumping into the stands for loose balls and things like that.”
What did he think of the final game in Oakland at Oracle Arena? Was he yelling at the TV? Close to a heart attack, maybe, after they were up three games to one, and then lost the fifth and had another close game that easily could have gone to a game 7?
“It was a little anticlimactic,” he says. “It would have been fun if it ended with a final shot or a final miss or defensive play or something like that. It kind of fizzled out. But it doesn’t take away the long-term impact of the win. We’ve got a whole year now where we’re are the NBA champions. Now. we just need to figure out a way to re-sign Kawhi [Leonard, MVP] and try to continue the legacy.”