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What is ‘NBA Top Shot’? Latest sports craze topped $130 million in sales in a week

Highlight of Zion Williamson blocking a shot.

Highlight of Zion Williamson blocking a shot.

Screen grab from NBA Top Shot

On first glance the concept sounds like a preposterous scam. A person can bid to buy a specific NBA highlight video that is already a few clicks away via YouTube or Twitter.

It seems like an askew idea that’s quickly disregarded by the investors on “Shark Tank.”

Only it’s not and it’s bringing in thousands of fans and investors — and millions of dollars.

Welcome to the world of virtual sports cards, which is slicing through social media like a predator missile even though it’s been roaming about since 2019. NBA Top Shot is a blockchain-based platform that allows people to snag and sell number versions of video player highlights called “Moments,” Forbes explains. It’s a virtual mind-warp developed by Vancouver-based Dapper Labs, who created the CryptoKitties game.

Packaged with player stats and 3D animations, the moments are rapidly changing the sports card game.

According to CryptoSlam, NBA Top Shot has done $187.3 million in sales, which is an increase of 1,189% percent compared to its most recent 30-day stretch — and $132 million of that was just in the past seven days.

A few of the biggest NBA Top Shot sales include the LeBron James “Cosmic” dunk ($208,000) and Zion Williamson’s “Holo MMXX” block ($100,000), Action Network reported.

It’s the first time the NBA has entered into a licensing deal backed by blockchain technology, a fast-growing internet ledger that is attracting billions in investments in everything from cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin to virtual paintings,” ESPN reported. “It’s a play to get a foothold in this emerging market, something league officials started exploring as far back as 2017, knowing other pro sports leagues are bound to be competitors in the space.”

Blockchain technology, which is the backbone of the cryptocurrency world, is used to ensure transparency in production and verify the authenticity of these digital collectibles, known as NFTs (non-fungible tokens), Bleacher Report explains.

NBA players and owners alike have already jumped in on the action (or have attempted to), including Atlanta Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic and Sacramento Kings rookie Tyrese Haliburton.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has also bought some Moments, including some of his own players, he said in his blog.

“To so many the idea that a CryptoAsset could be a store of value is crazy. To them, there is no ‘there,’ there. There is no intrinsic value. To them it is a digital representation of nothing, that crazy people are paying good money for. That is not the case,” Cuban said. “Some people might complain that I can get the same video on the internet anywhere anytime and watch it. Well guess what, I can get the same picture on any traditional, physical card on the internet and print it out, and that doesn’t change the value of the card.”

Even though it’s been around since 2019, it didn’t become a phenomenon until last month when FantasyLabs co-founder Jonathan Bales, who worked in analytics for an NFL team before becoming a fantasy football writer, published a blog that explained how he and friends dropped $35,000 to own a bonkers Ja Morant dunk over Aron Baynes.

Bales told Bleacher Report that he had dabbled in trading cryptocurrency in the past, but his ah-ha moment came to be when he lost out on winning an extremely rare T206 Honus Wagner baseball card in a bidding war.

“If we had won, I was never going to see the card,” Bales said to Bleacher Report. “We were going to put it in a vault. So I was thinking, ‘What am I buying? Am I buying a piece of paper?’ What you’re buying is provable authenticity, provable scarcity and ownership. With NFTs, it’s exactly the same thing. ”

Those in the business took Bales’ blog seriously, which then started a multi-million chain reaction across the sports gambling world.

“Bales is so sharp, and he just kind of doesn’t do dumb things or make bad investments, so it’s easy to blindly tail him on stuff,” Peter Overzet, a co-host of the “Club Top Shot” podcast, said to Bleacher Report. “Once he wrote that post, I started poking around and it immediately captured my imagination and made sense to me.”

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TJ Macías is a Real-Time national sports reporter for McClatchy based out of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Formerly, TJ covered the Dallas Mavericks and Texas Rangers beat for numerous media outlets including 24/7 Sports and Mavs Maven (Sports Illustrated).



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