As I was mindlessly scrolling on Bleacher Report an article caught my eye — “Lebron James Lakers Highlight Sells for Record $208k on NBA TopShot.” I had to read it a few times to make sure the headline was correct.
I was curious: What is NBA TopShot? Why are people willing to pay $208k for a highlight?
NBA TopShot is a partnership between the National Basketball Association and Dapper Labs, a company that has utilized blockchain technology, a decentralized digital record book that uses cryptography to create several successful online marketplaces. With NBA TopShot, Dapper Labs has created an online marketplace for virtual basketball cards known as “moments” that exist on the blockchain. Each card is unique and individually numbered and the blockchain technology ensures that each card is authentic and cannot be replicated.
Users can buy packs whose prices range from $9 for a pack of common cards to $999 for packs with rare and exclusive cards. Those who miss out on a pack can visit the marketplace, where individual moments are listed and swapped for cash.
Despite my initial intrigue, the more I learned about NBA TopShot, the more skeptical I became.
‘This can’t be real,’ I thought to myself. ‘Why would anyone pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a highlight that they could just watch for free on YouTube?’
I have been collecting sports cards since I was 6 years old and they hold a special place in my heart. I would always ask for a box of cards for my birthday and Christmas. I would tear off the wrapping paper and immediately feel a rush of excitement, hoping to find the card of one of my favorite players or an up-and-coming star. I amassed quite a collection of sports cards during this time and spent hours on end organizing them into folders to keep them in pristine condition.
There is something special about owning a physical sports card. Something just didn’t feel right about paying money for a moment on a screen, a moment that I could watch for free whenever I wanted. A physical card held some inherent value that a digital moment never could match.
However, I began to realize that NBA TopShot is not seeking to replace trading cards. NBA TopShot is more than just a marketplace to buy packs and moments; it is a great way to get more people interested in basketball.
NBA TopShot is not designed for basketball old heads who despise the flashy style of the current game. Long gone are the days when a team could score 80 points and win by playing tough, physical defense. The NBA has become an offensive-oriented league and teams routinely need to score over 120 points to win. Players are more skilled than ever which has led to more exciting highlights.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved watching Kobe Bryant face up against a defender and perform a few jab steps before hitting a tough mid-range jumper in his face. I also love watching Kyrie Irving hitting circus layups, Steph Curry and Damian Lilliard draining three-pointers from the logo and Nikola Jokic pick apart defenses with his passing wizardry. It’s possible to appreciate the past while also recognizing the electrifying aspects of today’s game.
NBA TopShot is designed for casual fans and kids who do not read a lot about basketball, watch lots of games or spend time learning the history of the NBA. Many people simply don’t have the time to spend hours digesting basketball. They do, however, have a few minutes in their day to watch highlights. Everyone — besides old heads, of course — loves watching highlights of players dunking, hitting step-back three-pointers and crossing opposing players to the floor. A new digital card trading platform that combines highlights with a chance to strike riches will surely pique the attention of many fans.
NBA TopShot has become a hot new trading platform for experienced memorabilia collectors and new investors, evidenced by nearly $500 million in sales since its launch. Users like Daniel Hurtado, a middle school math teacher and father of four, stumbled on the platform by chance and are now hooked. Hurtado initially invested $2,000 and within weeks his investment grew to over $135,000. Many collectors have stories similar to Hurtado’s; they were initially skeptical and worried that the bubble may burst and their investment would disappear. However, they invested a little and saw their earnings skyrocket, leading them to put more money into the platform.
As of April 16, buying an NBA TopShot pack is a guaranteed way to make a profit. The base pack costs $9 and contains three moments. The lowest listing for a moment on the marketplace is $5 and the platform charges a 5 percent market fee. Users have recognized this and the demand for packs is quickly rising. Queues continue to get longer with recent drops resulting in over 300,000 people waiting in line for just 67,500 packs.
As a message to skeptical fans like myself: there will always be a golden era on which we look back upon and reminisce. But don’t mope around, complain and wish we were in a previous era; enjoy the changes and appreciate the new styles. TopShot has a chance to be special; don’t miss your chance to be involved from the jump.