A heat check is (mostly) a basketball term. I didn’t think I needed to explain what it was before two days ago, when I started on this, but then several people I mentioned the idea to didn’t know what it meant and here we are. So, again:
A heat check is (mostly) a basketball term. It’s used to reference a shot attempt, specifically a difficult one attempted after a handful of easier, wiser shots have been made. Think of this: you make a layup, then you make a wide-open midrange jumper, then you make a wide-open 3-pointer. That’s great. Those are smart shots. You’re feeling very good about yourself and all the decisions you’ve made in life that have led you to that point, so the next time down court you receive the ball and then chuck up a 29-foot fadeaway. That’s the heat check. You are literally checking to see if you are figuratively hot. If you make it, you shoot again. If that goes in, then you do it again. And again. And again. Until you miss. Each make becomes exponentially more exciting and intriguing and more of an accelerant.
J.R. Smith is the unquestioned king of the NBA heat check (he requires precisely zero makes before he feels compelled to try a heat check — he exists in a perpetual state of heatcheckedness), but LeBron James has the most compelling heat-check performance of the last decade:
That’s what this is, except it’s an emotional heat check instead of a basketball one, and instead of a basketball player it’s Drake, and instead of shot attempts it’s responses to a situation. Here’s his chart:
His emotional heat checks, moments when he was compelled to attempt something foolish because his emotions overwhelmed him, are largely successful because Drake is largely a winner.
At the Rim: 1/1, 100 percent
That’s the time Tyga did an interview with Vibe and said, “I don’t like Drake as a person. He’s just fake to me.” Drake could’ve kept mum, and that would’ve been fine because Tyga is Tyga and “Rack City” came out like 15 years ago. But he responded by posting a picture of Tyga’s secret girlfriend Kylie Jenner to his Instagram account that showed her hanging out with Drake and his friends and that was that. That was an easy heat check.
Left Corner: 1/2, 50 percent
- That’s the time Chris Brown accused his girlfriend, Karrueche Tran, of sleeping with Drake. Drake’s team denied it. This is a make. If a guy says you slept with his girlfriend, and then you and your friends are like, “Nah, not me,” but everyone else in school is like, “That definitely happened, and even if it didn’t hahaha,” then that’s a make. Plus, it’s Chris Brown. And anytime something bad happens to Chris Brown that has to be a make for someone.
- That’s the time he tried to get into the Heat locker room during their 2013 championship celebration, was told no because only players and media were allowed in, then responded, “I am media.” This was a miss.
Left Wing: 1/1, 100 percent
That’s the time Drake did that (terrible) commercial with Sprite in 2010. Look at his face. It looks like he’s saying, “I’m not so sure this was a good idea, guys.”
Still, at the time, he’d not even released his first proper album. So I think that makes this moment Drake’s first recorded emotional heat check. That’s a make. You have to respect history.
Straightaway 3: 2/3, 66.6 percent
- That’s the time Drake got into a fight with Puff Daddy, which just happened this weekend and was the impetus for this whole article. Originally, I’d assumed fighting with Puff was a bad idea. But then I remembered Puff’s complicated history with death — the tragedy that occurred at the City University of New York celebrity basketball game and concert in 1991; the late Notorious B.I.G. — and now I’m just glad Drake is alive. This was a miss.
- That’s the time Drake squabbled with Chris Brown at a New York nightclub in 2012 about spending time with Rihanna (with whom Brown had a previous relationship). Brown got hit with a champagne bottle, Tony Parker (who was also there because who even knows) got glass in his eyeball, and Drake escaped untouched. TMZ reported that it was Meek Mill who hit Brown with the bottle. Barack Obama did not give Meek Mill a Medal of Valor or anything. I don’t think it’s a coincidence Obama’s approval rating has plummeted since. Miss for Obama, but a make for Drake.
- That’s the time Kendrick Lamar called Drake out by name in his verse on Big Sean’s “Control,” saying he wanted to erase him (and several others) from rap forever. Drake held his tongue. Kendrick took another swipe at Drake during a BET Hip Hop Awards cypher. Drake (finally) responded in his verse on the remix to Future’s “Shit.” Kendrick and his team laughed at Drake. This should’ve been a miss but it was actually a make because we were all very proud Drake stood up for himself.
Right Elbow: 2/2, 100 percent
- That’s the time Drake got a prayer hands emoji tattoo, then saw some comments on Instagram about how it was actually a high-five emoji, then swooped in and responded with, “It will be a debate until the end of time… high five or praying hands… life is what you make it.” Drake has the best life. This was a make.
- That’s the time Drake shot an airball while participating in warm-up drills with University of Kentucky basketball players. This is the clip:
This is actually a make because it’s basically the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. I could watch it about a billion times in a row, and I probably have. I keep rooting for him to make it, same as I do for Mufasa to claw his way up out of that canyon during the stampede in The Lion King.
Right Corner: 0/1, 0 percent
That’s the time Drake and Common were warring with each other, though to be clear I’m using the term “warring” here in the same way one would use it to describe two male butterflies fighting over a female butterfly. This was a miss because Common said Drake had never “wet”1 anybody before, then called him “Canada D.”