NBA Enters the Crypto Craze with NBA Top Shot

Whether it’s floppy disks, fax machines or landlines, new technology consistently has eradicated old machinery in exchange for an option that’s faster, shinier, and just plain better. But, it’s beginning to seem like the days of collecting binder upon binder filled with trading cards is behind us, as the National Basketball Association made its foray into the crypto-collectible market. 

Sold entirely online, NBA fans and collectors can purchase “Packs,” much like trading cards, that are filled with select “Moments,” or videos of the play. In the Top Shot equivalent of a trading card, buyers also have access to relevant statistics. There are different levels of rarity that distinguish these purchases: Common, Rare and Legendary. Packs and singular moments can start at relatively affordable prices in the single digits, but, depending on the rarity of the Moment or Pack, it can start to get pricy. A Moment of Lebron James dunking a ball during the 2019-2020 season went for $208,000 in February this year.

But, what is the technology that justifies the cost of these Packs and Moments? NBA Top Shot utilizes NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, which as of late, have been having a moment in the spotlight among artists and tech-savvy entrepreneurs looking to find new ways to make money. 

“A non-fungible token is the digital equivalent of the art world’s certificate of authenticity—it’s essentially a way of proving ownership of a digital piece of artwork or property,” senior Richard Criley explained. “Although anyone can own a print of the Mona Lisa, only one person can own the original. The same principle applies for NFTs—anyone can own a copy of [file], but only one person possesses ownership of the original image.”

NBA Top Shot is no different. On the website, the listing for a certain Pack or Moment will tell you how many copies exist out in the digital world. For instance, a three-pointer made by James Harden with the lowest asking price of $69,999 only belongs to two collectors. If you were to buy the Moment, only one other copy would be left to purchase, and because of the secure blockchain technology NFTs require for authenticity, it would be virtually impossible to reproduce. As young players advance in the league or veterans enter the G.O.A.T. conversation, it’s expected that the value of these Moments rises with the players’ star power.

“I do believe NFTs are a clever way of proving and maintaining ownership in a world that’s quickly becoming more and more digital, where ownership could become more and more unclear,” Criley said. “Purchasing or collecting NFTs is just the next step in art collecting. Although a Picasso drawing doesn’t have any intrinsic value outside of its utility as a piece of paper, investors still value it because of what it is. I think the same will apply for NFTs.”