Espys Host Drake Says LeBron James Deserves an Award 'For Incredible Essay Writing'
When Drake takes the stage at the 2014 Espy Awards on July 16, he'll be talking about the biggest names in sports — and there is none bigger right now than LeBron James.
In the wake of the NBA star's groundbreaking decision to "go home" to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the rapper, who is good friends with James, and Espys host told reporters: "I have been bothering LeBron as much as the press has trying to figure out what his decision was going to be!"
"I don't think there is a better way to deal with it than how he just did," Drake went on to reveal during a conference call to the media about the upcoming awards, referring to James' revelation on Friday morning to Sports Illustrated. "If we could give out an award at the Espys for incredible essay writing then I would definitely love to present that to him because what he just did was patriotic in its own way, and courageous and for me.
"This is going to be one of the most historic things of our generation. I am honored to know him and glad I got to witness this thing," he gushed about the All-Star who he described as like a brother. "I can't wait to get off this call and tell him how proud I am."
When asked if they would have liked LeBron to announce his latest decision live at the Espys, executive producer Maura Mandt explained that there was no attempt to arrange that. "What the Espys is about is how the sports world played out throughout the year and then we find the right person to help put that into perspective. That's what we look to the host for," she said.
"We don’t try to make that news happen, we let it unfold."
As for his upcoming performance in front of this year's nominees including Clint Dempsey, Ronda Rousey, Henrik Lundqvist, Richard Sherman and Jamie Anderson — and presenters such as Jessica Alba, Cameron Diaz and Kiefer Sutherland — Drake promised he will "deliver a great hosting job.
"One of the talents I am able to bring is music, but I want to just prepare a great night for people. I am not going to put on a strictly music-based show."
Following in the footsteps of past hosts Jon Hamm, Justin Timberlake and even LeBron, who co-hosted in 2007 with Jimmy Kimmel, Drake explained that "what makes a perfect Espys host is somebody that can fill the room with energy and joy for the people that are in the seats, but most importantly what I bring is I feel I know the room better than anyone before me because so many of these guys I have personal relationships with," said the R&B singer, who sent a shout out to Johnny "Football" Manziel in his hit song "Draft Day."
"I think I am going to able to tap into some jokes that will be appreciated by people in the crowd. For me, it is about knowing the room you are in and having the right presence." And just like when he recently hosted Saturday Night Live, "I have definitely incorporated impressions into my performance. I love copying people's mannerisms. They are good, I am excited!"
There is a natural affinity between sports stars and musicians, Drake went on to reveal, "I said once in a rap song that deep down, we want to be them and they want to be us. Whenever I speak to athletes they are always super into music whether it is rap or another genre.
"My other dream in life was to go to college and be recruited and play in the [NBA] league. We're synonymous like that and inspire each other and that really ties music and sports together," he explained.
One person he is excited to meet — if she turns up! — is WNBA star Skylar Diggins, who he's been flirting with on social media.
"I have never met Skylar, I assume it will be extremely awkward when I do, her boyfriend will probably tie her down to a chair," he joked. "I probably owe her an apology off the bat but it's been in all good spirits."
Not quite as good spirits is his reaction to Australian tennis player Nick Kyrgios, who blamed listening to Drake's music before his match against Rafael Nadal for messing up his game.
"I want to meet that guy who said he lost because he listened to my music, I want to size him up then chop him right down. Nick whatever-his -name-is," he grumbled.
The 2014 Espys will air live from the Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE on Wednesday, July 16, at 9 p.m. ET 6 p.m. PT on ESPN.
The Espys honor ESPN’s commitment to The V Foundation for Cancer Research, a partnership launched with the late Jim Valvano at the inaugural Espys in 1993. To see a full list of the nominees and vote, click here.