The long run is now: NBA High Shot is the brand new digital frontier

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This story runs in SLAM's Future Issue, so the timing couldn't be better to talk about who's next for the Toronto Raptors: power forward Chris Boucher. Lanky, St. Lucian-born Big has a great flair for the game, a non-stop engine, and an impressive touch from the depths. If he becomes Toronto's best player in three seasons we won't be shocked.

In a January 8 competition against Sacramento, Boucher was his typically efficient self – 23 points, 10 boards, and 2-4 from a distance. His most memorable highlight of the night, however, was an emphatic block against Marvin Bagley III. It was probably the best moment in the game, and so it literally became a moment; A platform called NBA Top Shot, owned by a company called Dapper Labs, immortalized the block by embossing it into a digital collectible.

We bought the highlight, or “moment,” as they are called by Top Shot, on February 15th for $ 9. When we went to print for this issue a few weeks later, three of the same moments, albeit less often, sold for over $ 1,000 each. Yes, a Chris Boucher rejection clip received this type of return.

OK, we might have lost a few readers there. Our bad. Let's step back a little. As you've probably heard, the sports card industry is currently made up of bananas. Retail sales shatter records. Good luck finding the right pack – the target shelves are empty. eBay is experiencing unprecedented transactions. NBA Top Shot simply leans into the frenzied collectibles space, but with a revolutionary approach.

Top Shot is a blockchain-based platform that allows fans to collect, trade and sell officially licensed game clips. Moments are placed in virtual packages sold exclusively on NBATopShot.com. Packs priced between $ 9 and $ 1000 (depending on the potential exclusivity of the pack's contents) sell out very quickly and are only released at certain times announced a few hours or at most a day before the pack is dropped. Tens of thousands of people have "hired" (digitally) to get their hands on it, and most are usually unable to.

But they're not just sold out. Early adopters also pay off. As with traditional cards, NBA publishes Top Shot Commons, rare clips, and elusive legendary moments. The latter has a production cap of 99 or less, sometimes less. Those who got lucky have doubled, tripled, or tenfold their winnings on the site's marketplace. A clip of a LeBron James Dunk recently sold for a whopping $ 208,000.

What's crazy is that despite the excitement, things are only just beginning here.

"We're very early on in terms of the adoption cycle," said Roham Gharegozlou, CEO of Dapper Labs, the parent company of NBA Top Shot. "I think we are still in the 'insider' stage and are going into the 'early adopters' stage."

However, we sense your hesitation. Real money? Virtual highlights? Can't I just go to YouTube for free when I want to see a Ja Morant Dunk? Of course you can. You can also have your art school cousin design a Kobe Bryant rookie card for you in Photoshop instead of paying $ 42,000 for a 1996 Topps Chrome gem mint on eBay.

"That's a question asked by people who don't necessarily understand the economics of collectors," says Gharegozlou, who has already had success in the virtual world with the virtual game CryptoKitties. “What you buy in an NBA Top Shot isn't the video rights, it's not the intellectual property rights. It's the asset itself. It's kind of an analogy to a trading card. The difference from a digital asset is that you don't have to prove that it is (real). The blockchain guarantees authenticity. "

Blockchains have made a lot of headlines over the past few years. In simple terms, they are databases in which blocks of information are chained together. Bitcoin transactions are carried out on them. In the case of NBA Top Shot, its moments (which are technically shaped as non-fungible tokens or NFTs) serve as digital certificates on the blockchain that indicate collectors for owning a video asset.

Many see this concept as the future of the industry. Investors like Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and influential entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk agree. Other companies like StarStock and Otis, essentially stock markets for cards and collectibles, are different from TopShot but are relevant examples of how the collectors world is evolving into a more digital world where you don't even touch what you are. Pay back place.

The NBA, one of the more forward-looking professional sports leagues, saw this too, which is why they and the National Basketball Players Association decided to partner with Dapper Labs for Top Shot. "They have already identified this technology as something that could have an impact on their business," said Caty Tedman, head of partnerships at Dapper Lab, of the joint venture that was launched in July 2019 to Consumers. "According to Tedman, more than 150,000 registered on the site when we spoke with her, and The Action Network reported that NBA Top Shot has already had $ 180 million in market revenue, more than 60 percent of which was only in the." February 2021, by the time you're reading this, all of those numbers are going to be much higher.)

The people in the league also saw the potential. Although players are seeing a drop in sales through Dapper's partnership with the NBA and PA, some have decided to buy their own moments. And when Dapper Labs announced a $ 12 million funding round in August 2020, investors included Nets 'Spencer Dinwiddie, Magic's Aaron Gordon, and Cavs' JaVale McGee.

"The company is very innovative," says McGee. "I understand how (sports) cards work. The fact that these are technically digital cards that sit on the blockchain was definitely one of the most impressive things I've ever seen." I really like Bitcoin and all of the cryptocurrency. I took a chance with this company, but it worked out perfectly. "

Of course, there are risks associated with every investment. Top shot prices fluctuate with demand, current scarcity, and other factors. And sure, with every new tech company, the pain grows. Collectors have grumbled that packs are too hard to come by. The NBA top shot page was incorrect at times. But to the credit of the company, they faced every challenge head on, made the appropriate corrections, and compensated for any subsequent slumps.

Still not convinced? Neither does Michael Ferguson. Ferg, a passionate card collector from Ohio, turned his love into Rated Rips, a vibrant online card business that broadcasts pack-ripping sessions, called pauses, live, submits subscription cards to review companies, and runs an informative Discord community on everything talking about the hobby. including NBA top shot.

"Somebody mentioned it on one of the live streams one night," says Ferguson. "I don't know. It's still hard to understand because they're so new and have some problems to solve. But it's crazy how much money you can make on this platform. It drives me crazy what people do for this Pay for moments. It's a really fascinating idea. It's a great opportunity to see how high everyone is in the card market right now. The only problem with that is that it's almost impossible to get packs because they sell out instantly. "

The topic of Top Shot kept cropping up in Rated Rips' chats. Like any good businessman, Ferg started a discord channel on the subject and tried a few dollars into the company. "I'm trying to get through (on release days)," says Ferguson, who stood on the virtual line with us and 12,000 others for a recent pack drop, "because the ROI is almost a guaranteed win." The first pack I bought was $ 9. I pulled out a LeBron and sold it for $ 380. "

And frankly, that's all the NBA Top Shot team expects from basketball fans – give the platform a try. "We really want people to check it out and see for themselves," says Gharegozlou, who plans to add games and more vintage moments to the lineup going forward. “The $ 100,000 sales hit the headlines, but there are a million ways to collect and expand a collection that you love and care about. It's easier to get involved with than anyone thinks. "

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