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How Drake found the 'ultimate troll jersey' for Game 1 of the NBA Finals

The owner of a Brooklyn store selling vintage sports jerseys helped Canadian rapper Drake find just the one he needed to get into the heads of the Golden State Warriors for Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

Owner of Brooklyn vintage shop tracked down rare Dell Curry jersey and hand delivered it to the hip-hop star

Drake, left, at Game 1 of the NBA Finals at Toronto's Scotiabank Arena, sporting a vintage Dell Curry jersey from the time he played with the Toronto Raptors. Curry's son Stephen, known as Steph, is a star member of the Golden State Warriors, who lost to the Raptors Thursday night. (Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

It took some hustle and a 10-hour drive by the owner of a vintage jersey store in Brooklyn for Drake to pull off his epic courtside troll of the Golden State Warriors in their first NBA Finals game against the Toronto Raptors Thursday night.

In his quest to get in the head of superstar point guard Steph Curry, the hip-hop star, who serves as the Raptors' "global ambassador," sported a signed, vintage Raptors jersey of Curry's father, Dell, who played with the Toronto team from 1999 to 2002.

All eyes were on the basketball court in Toronto's Scotiabank Arena for Game 1 of the best-of-seven contest as it was the first time Canada's sole NBA team had reached the Finals in the 24 years it has been part of the league.

The Raptors ended up besting the Warriors 118 to 109, and Drake was there on the sidelines, relishing every minute in the unmistakable vibrant purple of late '90s, early 2000s-era Raptors road jerseys.

WATCH: Drake isn't the only die-hard Toronto Raptors fan. Check out this epic line of fans at Jurassic Park before Game 1 of the NBA Finals:

They couldn’t get into the stadium for Game 1 of the NBA Finals, so these die-hard Toronto Raptors fans lined up around it hours before tipoff for a chance to cheer on their team in the fan zone known as Jurassic Park. Reporter Greg Ross shows you how big the crowd is. 7:57

While he made the trolling look easy, from jawing with another Warriors star, Draymond Green, to picking lint out of Curry's hair and later joking on Instagram that he would offer it up on eBay, getting the actual jersey had been anything but simple.

Not an easy jersey to find

It took a bit of luck, some hard work and a lot of time on the road for Al Martiniello, owner of Select Vintage in the Bushwick neighbourhood in New York's Brooklyn borough.

"Drake is a once-in-a-lifetime generational artist, so for me to do this for him and be a part of this is amazing. It was nuts," Martiniello told CBC News from his store.

The adventure began around 2 a.m. ET on Monday when a member of Drake's entourage contacted Martiniello looking for a Dell Curry jersey.

Al Martiniello at his Brooklyn shop, Select Vintage. He's been filling orders for vintage sports jerseys for Drake for about a year, but none as high-profile as his latest find. (Al Martiniello)

"I got that request, I was like, 'Wow, that is the ultimate troll jersey.'"

The 29-year-old had been sourcing sports jerseys for Drake for about a year, but this latest request was no slam dunk.

"I had very low confidence that I was able to find it because it's a very odd jersey," he said.

"As somebody who's been collecting jerseys his entire life, I don't know if I've ever actually seen a Dell Curry authentic retail one."

He immediately began reaching out to his network of collectors, and within a couple of hours, a friend and fellow collector tracked down a Dell Curry fan in Queens.

The next step: Convincing him to part with a beloved collectible.

Steph Curry, right, stands beside his father prior to a game in 2010. During the Warriors' game against the Raptors Thursday, Drake chose a cheeky way to remind the younger Curry of his dad's three-season stint with the Toronto team between 1999 and 2002. (Ben Margot/The Associated Press)

'I need to have this jersey'

Benjamin Weil had always been a fan of shooters in basketball and his favourite was Dell Curry. Weil estimates he has about 1,500 jerseys in his collection, but the Dell Curry one was special. He bought it about six years ago when a former Toronto Raptor was selling off some items on eBay.

"That was the one that I had to have. The Dell Curry was 100 per cent what I needed to have because I'd never seen one before and I figured I might never see one again."

He says it was a rare find because basketball jerseys in that era weren't mass produced as they are now and Curry was past his prime during his time as a Raptor, so his jersey wouldn't have been in high demand.

Weil says a series of urgent text messages were exchanged, where it was clear, Martiniello and friend Evan Flores were desperate to get the jersey.

"His text was like 'You don't understand. I need to have this jersey' and I was like 'I don't want to sell this jersey!'" Weil said.

Weil says, while the buyers only hinted at it, he was piecing it all together: Game 1 was coming up, someone with money wanted this badly. In the end, he said, he figured out the jersey must be for Drake.

"It was sort of a person that was in the spotlight, a person that wanted to be the ultimate troll against the Warriors and someone that didn't care that much about money," Weil said. 

Eventually Weil, who had never worn the jersey at that point, relented and sold it. 

"As much as I love it, they'll make much better use of it than it just sitting in my closet," he said.

'It was not cheap'

"It was not cheap because he didn't want to sell it," Martiniello said. 

He wouldn't disclose how much he or the rap star paid for it.

Martiniello then had to figure out how to get it from Queens to Toronto in time for Thursday night's game. He was worried overnight shipping wouldn't get the jersey to Drake on time.

The only solution, he decided, was to close his store (where he's the only employee), hop in the car and drive to Toronto.

"There was adrenaline pumping through my veins. Like, that entire drive, I was wired," he said.

When he got to the border, he told the customs agents exactly what he was doing, and they had a good sense of humour about it and let him pass.

Ten hours later, the jersey was in Drake's hands. 

A fan of the 6ix

Martiniello didn't get to stay and savour the moment. He and his friend who had made the road trip with him were back on the road to New York. After closing up shop for two days, he needed to get back to business.

He says he didn't see the impact the jersey made until he got home in the early hours Friday morning.

That's when his phone started blowing up with text and Instagram messages, and he saw that the jersey was a hit.

He says he's happy to have played a role in a historic night in Toronto basketball.

"It's great. It was a lot of pressure, but I wouldn't want to have it any other way."

Weil too is happy to have played his part in this drama, though it does put him in an awkward position: his love of Dell Curry translated to a love of Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors.

"I feel like I need to meet Dell Curry to apologize to him. I really do feel bad about it," Weil said laughing. 

With the next Raptors-Warriors tussle set for Sunday night in Toronto again, Martiniello says he'll continue to cheer for the home team.

"I'm definitely not a Golden State fan. I'm tired of seeing them win, so I think the 6ix needs something," he said, using Toronto's beloved nickname, believed to have been coined by Drake.

WATCH | Al Martiniello tells the story of how he tracked down the Dell Curry jersey for Drake:

A vintage jersey shop owner from Brooklyn helped Canadian rapper Drake find just the jersey he needed to get in the heads of the Golden State Warriors for Game 1 of the NBA Finals. 2:16

About the Author

Steven D'Souza

CBC News New York

Steven D'Souza is a Gemini-nominated journalist based in New York City. He has reported internationally from the papal conclave in Rome and the World Cup in Brazil, and he spent eight years in Toronto covering stories like the G20 protests and the Rob Ford crack video scandal.

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