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Sports Authority

Schatz: Moments Never Fade

| Friday, March 26, 2021

It all started with a box of cigarettes. In 1886 you could walk to the closest general store to pick up a box of Goodwin Tobacco, and inside was the drawing of a baseball player, their name and team printed across the top. Trading cards have become a tradition that have boomed since their creation. Over a century later, these baseball cards are synonymous with Major League Baseball and are being sold for millions of dollars each — a piece of cardboard assigned a value based purely on the rarity and importance in baseball history. 

In the age of COVID-19, the art of trading has been passed from the MLB to the NBA. Non-fungible tokens (NFT) — a unique form of cryptocurrency — have been around for a few years now. Originally, NFTs were used to sell artwork and other forms of online property. There are many NFTs that look identical but are in fact unique due to the nature of Blockchain. Using NFTs, NBA Top Shot released their “moments,” the modern form of the baseball card. These moments are clips from the best NBA plays in each season. On February 22, one of these moments, a short video of LeBron James dunking on Nemanja Bjelica, sold for more than $200,000. A block from Zion Williamson went for just a little less. All of this is despite the fact that anyone with Internet access can find these same exact clips on Youtube.

However, just as it was with baseball cards, the value comes from the rarity, not the moment itself. The main appeal with these moments is the fact that every NFT cannot be replicated. Although there are thousands of certain clips, each moment is unique by virtue of Blockchain. The individual known online as “jesse,” who purchased the LeBron moment, is the only one who owns it. This is the novelty of NFTs. This concept of ownership in America is very relevant and adds value to almost everything. Although there are thousands of online versions of a Michael Jordan game, an original VHS of that same game is worth substantially more. However, moments are not simply a new form of trading cards. Baseball cards were released annually — a photo on the front with the updated stats on the back. All physical things deteriorate over time, and this includes baseball cards. With moments, however, there is no need to fear any tears or fading; they will always remain in mint condition. While baseball cards are static, moments are alive. 

If you are like me, you might wonder why there is any real value to these moments at all. Yes, you get ownership of the clip, but does that really mean anything? Especially regarding the fact that by NBA copyright laws you are unable to manipulate or manufacture the moment in any way. But who is to say there is any value to baseball cards either? Or diamonds, for that matter? Just like any marketable object, supply and demand are what determines the worth. For these Top Shot moments, the NBA has determined how many they are releasing at any given moment, and the consumer has decided their worth. Now, for this to not turn into another rendition of the Beanie Babies scandal, the NBA must play their cards right. Investor in Top Shot and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has hope, and believes that these moments will play a huge role in the future revenue of the company. 

The NBA is not the only sports league that is hoping to profit from this new technology. The MLB and other sports leagues have promised that in the near future they will be releasing their version of these moments. 

While right now, NFTs are predominantly traded by adults, it is not inconceivable that in the near future, elementary school kids will be trading these moments just as others before them traded Pokemon and baseball cards. When schools go back to in-person classes, little boys and girls will no longer pull out a sleeve of shiny little baseball cards. Instead, they will run to the blacktop, pull out their phones, and log into their digital wallet, peeking over each other’s screens. As technology advances, society follows — and NBA Top Shot moments are just an example of this. 

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