J. Cole was back on the court as he made his official debut in the Canadian Elite Basketball League.
About 3,000 fans packed Toronto’s Sleeman Centre to watch the Dreamville superstar play his first game for the Scarborough Shooting Stars on Thursday against the Guelph Nighthawks. The 6’3″ guard missed his first two shots, but hit his third, a three-pointer, finishing with three points in 15 minutes.
“He wasn’t the best player on the court; he wasn’t the worst,” wrote the Toronto Star. “He was just the most famous, and there’s something admirable about a man of Cole’s stature putting himself out there for all to see and dissect when it’s very much a labour of love.”
Drake, whose manager OVO Niko is one of the CEBL team’s owners, was at home cheering him on. “It’s real @scarboroughshootingstars my brother just checked in 🤞🏽,” he captioned a photo of Cole on his TV screen.
He continued to show his “In the Morning” collaborator love. “COLE WORLD LEGENDARY SHIT first game now,” Drake wrote in an Instagram Story.
— Overtime (@overtime) May 26, 2022
The Shooting Stars lost 80-89, but Cole’s presence on the team helped attract a crowd that was 50 percent larger than it might have been in any other year, according to observers.
“Today was a great day for both [teams] and a great day for the league,” Scarborough coach Chris Exilus said. “Cole did a great job and he played his heart out, and I think what he brings is also excitement, and he brings a certain fan base that we want to continue to see the game. I think all those things are great things for everybody.”
Cole previously played pro basketball with the Rwanda Patriots in the Basketball Africa League last year. He scored five points, three assists, and five rebounds in three games but left the tournament ahead of the playoffs due to a “family obligation.”
He is scheduled to play his first home game at the Pan Am Sports Centre on June 4.