The Next NFT Slam Dunk?
The NFT market is growing, and the newest emerging trend is what some are calling “sports NFTs” or “sportstacles.” The term “sportstacle” was coined by a former professional baseball player, Rob Dibble, who decided to enter the NFT market with a series of paintings depicting moments from his playing career. As an athlete and artist, he has a unique perspective that combines passion for sport with a creative eye. His first series of works include depictions of his no-hitter in 1989 and a series of pieces in which he took famous moments from sports history and recreated them in a humorous way, such as the iconic image of Michael Jordan crying after winning the NBA championship.
The sports NFT trend was kicked off recently by a series of artworks by an artist known as Cryptograffiti, who produced commemorative artworks to celebrate the Super Bowl win by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The piece sold for $32K on Rarible, making it one of the highest selling NFTs to date. Cryptograffiti’s work caught the eye of another NFL star, Marshall Faulk, who then commissioned him to do a portrait of him as well. These two pieces have gotten people thinking about how this type of digital art could be used by fans to pay tribute to their favorite athletes and musicians at an affordable price point (see also: LeBron James’ “I Promise” sneakers). Cryptograffiti has been in the business of creating NFTs since 2013 and is currently working on a number of other projects, including a new series of portraits with artists like David Salle and Ryan McNamara, as well as more NFL pieces (he even recreated the famous Michael Jordan ’90 dunk shot painting). His work can be found on Cryptograffiti.
The NBA and its players are no strangers to the world of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), the blockchain-based digital collectibles that have surged in popularity lately. In April, the Brooklyn Nets’ Spencer Dinwiddie tried to tokenize his contract, but ended up losing his job instead. Now, several former NBA players are betting that NFTs could make some real money on the basketball court—or, more specifically, in its stands.
In a partnership with Dapper Labs, the company behind NFT marketplace NBA Top Shot and blockchain game CryptoKitties, investors including Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Durant, and Alex Rodriguez have created an NFT platform for sports fans called Own Your Favorite Team. Through this platform, fans can buy a stake in their favorite sports team by purchasing NFTs representing their team’s digital fan shares. These NFTs are simple digital images, but they are backed by a legal framework granting their owners equity in their chosen team. They will be able to vote on important decisions like coaching changes or stadium expansions—although it remains to be seen if those votes will have any real influence over team management.
According to Own Your Favorite Team’s website, fans can also lobby the commissioner to “improve their favorite team’s chances of getting into a new stadium by lobbying for a particular issue that is most important to them (and which will hopefully not make a negative difference in how much money their team receives from the NFL).
Now, we are seeing other forms of content being tokenized and sold for crypto, including NBA Top Shots and soccer highlights. The NBA has partnered with Dapper Labs to create NBA Top Shots, a platform that releases versions of basketball highlights as NFTs that fans can buy and sell on the market.
Next up could be soccer highlights. It’s unclear when exactly this will happen, but it’s likely only a matter of time before the world’s most popular sport begins to leverage blockchain technology in this way.
In fact, the first NFT ever sold was that of a professional athlete: Kings guard Buddy Hield raised $1.2 million by auctioning off an NFT of his game-winning three-pointer against the Blazers last season.
The most recent NBA Top Shot sale, that of a Zion Williamson diamond rookie card, which sold for $100,000 worth of cryptocurrency, has been in the news recently. And while some people think this is ridiculous (why would you pay that much for a digital card?), others think it’s the future of collectibles and sports memorabilia. And those in the latter camp are not just superfans or crypto nerds—they include some heavy hitters with deep pockets.
News broke last week that Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, is interested in investing in an NFT basketball-card company called Apollo Collective.
And earlier this year, Michael Jordan himself invested in a startup called Dapper Labs that also makes NFTs for sports fans. The company sold $250 million worth of NBA-themed cards last year alone.
But why? Why would someone want to buy digital cards? It’s easy to see why people like the physical aspect of collecting things—the satisfaction of opening a pack of baseball cards and seeing what players are inside is something you can’t get buying them online nowadays. The thrill is gone from print media in general as newspapers have faded away and more and more magazines have gone exclusively digital. But there is still an allure to collectibles for some, especially those who grew up with it or got into it later on and want to keep that part of their lives going on in a new form—especially if it costs them less than they’d pay at GameStop (the company owns Magic: The Gathering). The fact remains, however, that the hobby is pretty much dead as far as we know, and so most likely won’t be growing any time soon, and may even decline in the future, but here’s hoping it doesn’t.
One moment features a slam dunk by LeBron James, for example. It costs $9 and has only 10 copies in circulation. The most expensive moment is currently a dunk by Zion Williamson that costs $50, but there are only two copies available.
NBA Top Shot says it has generated $230 million in sales in the past year through its online marketplace. The company is looking to expand beyond just selling highlights, however, and hopes to one day offer action shots that can be used as digital backgrounds on Zoom calls.
Top Shot isn’t the only sports-related NFT startup out there. Virtual FanChain is giving fans the ability to customize their avatars on game day with licensed player jerseys and helmets in exchange for blocks of crypto tokens. And Blockparty wants fans to earn crypto rewards at live events through things like seat upgrades or free food and drinks.
We’re almost at the end of the NBA regular season, and in a few short weeks, the playoffs will begin. If you’re already counting down the days until May 18, when the first game tips off, you may be wondering how you can keep your excitement going between now and then. If you’ve been following the story of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), there’s a good chance that the word “basketball” is on your mind. A basketball NFT sold for $208,000 recently—will it go even higher this summer?
The NBA’s Top Shot website has been selling NFTs since last October, and so far, it’s safe to say they’ve been pretty successful. In fact, they’ve already sold well over a million of them! That may not seem like much compared to regular sports cards (which can sell in the billions) but bear in mind that these are not your average sports cards—they are digital collectibles that can be bought and sold online. This allows for some truly unique experiences: for example, one lucky buyer got an autographed LeBron James token from King James himself!
What makes basketball such a good fit for NFTs? Well, it’s hard to argue against the sheer number of ways you can collect and display a piece of memorabilia. NFTs also bring something else that can’t be matched by any other way to store your memories in-game: the ability to trade. In basketball, trading is not only allowed but encouraged.
It’s not just the nature of the NFT that has changed. The NBA was able to take advantage of a muted sports scene and an already-established fan base when it first issued its trading cards. But now, as other sports leagues are joining the NFT craze, and as collectors’ interest begins to rebound, the market is becoming more competitive. To maintain its lead, the NBA will need to answer some difficult questions about how far it wants to go with this technology—and whether it will offer a new way for fans to interact with their favorite sports teams.
For now, however, it seems that for many enthusiasts, this is just the beginning. After all, if a digital basketball card can sell for $208,000, what about digital sneakers?
NFT basketball and NFT soccer are the next NFT slam dunk. The worlds of NFT basketball and NFT soccer have seen huge growth in recent months. This is a great example of how the NFT community has grown over time to include many different types of people and interests. This presents a huge opportunity for businesses to help build the NFT community by partnering with these groups to promote their sports-related products and services.
These partnerships can be beneficial for both sides. The business will get access to a wider audience while the sports teams will get exposure to a new group of potential fans. It is win-win!