DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT ADVOCATING FOR THIS AS AN INVESTMENT. I AM THE FURTHEST THING FROM A MARKETPLACE OR ECONOMIC GURU. I AM ALSO NOT A FINANCIAL ADVISOR – JUST AN NBA ENTHUSIAST.
Have you ever spent money on a free video highlight clip that you can find on Twitter or Youtube? In the past month, I have done this, and done this again, and then another time, and a bunch of times after that. “NBA Top Shot” (BETA) has been a mild(?) recent obsession of mine for the past month or so. Essentially it is a website that allows you to collect authentic serialized clips of NBA highlight plays.
NBA Top Shot has a licensing agreement with the NBA that allows them to create short NBA highlights – they are called ‘Moments’ – and sell them to you, similar to a basketball card. The key difference being that you do not get to hold onto these cards, rather, they are virtual cards in video form. (Technically, these are Non Fungible Tokens [NFTs] stored on the blockchain so someday you will be able to keep them even separate from the platform – this is the extent of my crypto/blockchain knowledge) These moments are released in packs (but good luck getting your hands on one right now) and are available to purchase from the Marketplace from other users.
All 30 NBA teams have players with moments available. There are a variety of play types that they cover, including blocks, steals, handles, assists and points (3s, layups, dunks etc). Dennis Rodman is very disappointed that there are no rebound moments. They have LeBron’s Kobe tribute dunk, Luka’s stepback game winner vs LAC in the playoffs and Ja Morant’s massive throwdown over Aron Baynes, to name a few. Each moment is numbered (serial numbers) and for whatever reason the community and market has placed a premium on the lower (closer to 1) numbers as well as the players jersey numbers.
One of the many appeals to Top Shot is that it seems to resonate with a very wide audience. You like basketball? Sweet, these are some of the best plays from the current and past seasons(s) that you can own. You can seek out your favorite players, a play from a game that you went to or just your favorite dunk. Maybe you are a collector? Perfect. All of these Moments are in mint condition. You never have to be concerned that your card is bent or your painting is scratched or even that you can’t locate your signed jersey. These are all stored digitally (just keep that password stored where you can find it) so you can’t misplace, damage, or lose it. There are also people who are just into NFT’s who know little to nothing about basketball but love the idea and platform. Investor? This is the area I want to be most careful on (and wouldn’t bank on – this is a brand new idea, unproven platform and is still working out the kinks – they are in BETA mode so not yet a fully launched complete product) but plenty of ‘investors’ have taken to this platform merely to buy, hold, flip, and sell these digital assets, and have done so very successfully. In some ways, this has been acting as a pseudo-player stock market.
I’m not even sure if the player stock market angle was intended or not by the website (likely yes it was thought of) but it is fascinating to me. It is very easy to toss out a quick “I’ve always been a believer in player X” on social media or a podcast, but talk is cheap. This might just be a way to truly buy-in to these players’ stock. I’ve observed over the past few weeks that if a player pops off, especially a lower tier player, their moments get bought up in a frenzy for a few hours after the big performance. I am guessing this trend also is found in physical cards, but instead of placing a bid on eBay or even buying the card, waiting for it to be shipped, worrying about how it is handled etc., on Top Shot you can literally purchase these in seconds. For me, I have an irrational affinity for Keldon Johnson, so I may have loaded up (for me anyway) on his first moment, which is a massive dunk against the Clippers.
The nice thing about this new hobby is that it has entry points for any user. They have common base packs (should you be lucky enough to find one) for $9 and you can find moments available on the marketplace for as low as $2, but they also have more rare higher end moments that you will need to shell out a pretty penny for.
So what is the big deal? Why do these have you excited enough to write about? Why am I not just going to YouTube to see these again? You are actually spending US dollars on virtual clips? All great questions. For me, my love of basketball definitely was the first driver, but also the collecting aspect reeled me in. I feel like a little kid again when i am “ripping open these packs.” More accurately stated, clicking the button that says ‘open’ and ‘reveal’. There’s something fun about chasing a Limited Edition LeBron James, Steph Curry, or LaMelo Ball (rookies are very coveted in this space at the moment). I also can’t deny that it’s been exciting to see their values rise. There are very cool tools available that members of the Top Shot community have created that give estimates of your portfolio value and since I have joined, the community and collector numbers have continued to rise, which has boosted the value of my moments. One of my first packs had a LeBron James dunk in it that was worth around $80 if you were to buy it in the open market. It then more than tripled in value in just under two weeks, though the website had a massive spike in users in late January.
As I briefly alluded to earlier, if this does pique your interest, please note that the supply literally cannot keep up with the demand currently; every ‘pack drop’ (varies but there are often 25,000 packs) they release sells out in a matter of minutes. They grew so rapidly in January that they actually turned off their marketing, though they do have a deal with Tyler Herro in place where he’s promoted on their home page and he gave them a recent plug. Mark Cuban also briefly touched on Top Shot in a recent interview with CNBC. Their end goal is having base packs available at all times, but they are severely backlogged at the moment. People are sitting in their public discord just waiting to catch whiff of a future pack drop, and then often waiting in a queue to try and snag a coveted pack.
Speaking of the Discord (publicly organized channels that serve as communication tools – modernized chat rooms?), there is a very entertaining group of people who are sharing thoughts, ideas, jokes, and “pleasantries” around the clock. ‘General’ can often be a nightmare of complaints and “WHEN PACKS DROPPIN”, but some of the other channels foster good conversations and provide some basketball chatter. The Dapper Labs team (owners of the product) often drop in for Q&A’s and do weekly office hours giving news and updates about Top Shot. I even found a few Timberwolves fans a few weeks ago shockingly – didn’t realize they existed outside of my home.
There is a ton more to Top Shot than the above, this was just an (not-so-brief?) intro to what has captivated my mind lately. There are different tiers of moments (common rare legendary etc), different sets (Run it Back, Season Tip-Off, NBA Finals), collection challenges to complete, a game in the works that gives these moments utility and showcases you can store them in, among other things. I truly have no idea if this will be a lucrative endeavor, a short-lived adventure that peters out softly in 2021 if (when) people are able to leave their homes comfortably again, or a long-term leisurely hobby that I donate a few bucks to each month.
Am I crazy? Is anybody out there? A lot of my contacts have a high interest in at least one or more of sports, basketball, crypto, the market, and games but nobody seems to know about NBA Top Shot and the few I have tried explaining it to sort of gave off the ‘meh’ impression. Is this new-age pogs/beanie babies/crazy bones? Or is it the future of sports cards and collectibles?
Any other collectors out there? Would love to hear from you @SamJ015 on Twitter.
DISCLAIMER: AGAIN, TO BE CLEAR, I AM NOT ADVOCATING FOR THIS AS AN INVESTMENT. I AM THE FURTHEST THING FROM A MARKETPLACE OR ECONOMIC GURU. I AM ALSO NOT A FINANCIAL ADVISOR – JUST AN NBA ENTHUSIAST.