Drake is hilarious as host of the ESPY Awards

NEW YORK — As the host of the 2014 ESPY Awards, Drake hit a home run.

The rapper-actor may have been a surprising choice to lead Wednesday’s awards show, but as an avid sports fan and showman he quickly proved why he’s a natural on stage.

“I’m excited to be here, so many athletes in the house,” Drake said as he opened the ceremony. “So many people that I respect, so many of you that I admire. So many people that I would trade my life to be. I love all of you … until you start losing, then you’re dead to me. I stick with the champions.”

And with that he was off with the usual host monologue, firing off jokes about LeBron James going back to Cleveland, Donald Sterling (of course), Prince Fielder, and his concern for Johnny Manziel. It wasn’t completely smooth, but some of his jokes landed well.

“I love me some Johnny Football, I do,” he said, referring to the good-time-loving Manziel by his nickname. “For example, right before I came out here, I got a text from him asking if I wanted to do mushrooms and watch the ESPYs together tonight.

“Johnny, I hope you understand this is why I couldn’t come. But I’m sure this looks amazing to you right now.”

As the ESPYs went on, the “Started From the Bottom” star started to display his versatility with sketches and songs.

From his cover of “Frozen” to his reunion with Chris Brown, here are five ways Drake knocked his ESPYs gig out of the park:

1. The Lance Cam

According to Drake, he knows the real reason why basketball player Lance Stephenson blew in LeBron James’ ear during an Eastern Conference Finals game in May: “You only blow in the ear of somebody that you truly and deeply respect.”

So instead of the “Kiss Cam,” we now have the “Lance Cam,” and Drake did Stephenson the honor of blowing right into his ear.

2. Blake vs. Drake

Any presumed tension between Drake and Chris Brown after their 2012 confrontation at a New York nightclub wasn’t visible at the ESPYs. For Drake’s skit with Blake Griffin, in which Drake and Blake played competing stars who start playing practical jokes on one another, Chris Brown was at the ready to lend a hand.

3. If Manny Pacquiao sang ‘Let It Go’

Making fun of Manny Pacquiao’s love of singing, Drake did an impression of the boxer in the studio belting out “Let It Go” from “Frozen.” Might even be better than the original.

4. ‘Side Pieces’

Because he’s Drake, some were probably curious how he’d weave his day job — rapping — into the ceremony. Well, he did, but he didn’t just rehash an old hit. No, he created an ode to the mistresses with some help from Brian McKnight.

“This next song has absolutely nothing to do with you at all,” Drake told his audience. “This song is about the real glue that holds the sports world together: side pieces.”

Sample lyric? “A lot of guys are dying for this song to end.” We smell a new hit.

5. Getting a kiss from Skylar Diggins

Speaking of “Side Pieces,” Drake swore that’s the one thing he would be for his basketball-playing crush, Skylar Diggins.

But when he tried to woo the Tulsa Shock star with some poetry, she spurned his advances with the ultimate gesture of friendship.

Better luck next year, Drake.

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