Blockchain For Normal People Has Arrived, And It’s Called NBA Top Shot.
Caveat to the reader: I do not work in blockchain (although I would love to!). If something in here is inaccurate, please DM me and let me know. If you’re a non-blockchain person, I want you to know that there are some incredible resources out there to help you start learning, even as a casual observer (here’s a good place to start).
A few months back I received a very excited text from my 15 year old nephew.
He had just found a box of very old hockey cards.
Wayne Gretzky, Steve Yzerman, Joe Nieuwendyk. Mike Modano. Cards from the late 80s to early 90s, some of which were either sealed or in sleeves.
“How much do you think they’re worth?” he asked.
No clue. But with the help of eBay, we determined some may be in the $200-$500 range. Not bad for cleaning out the basement.
But the texts kept coming.
“Which should I keep?”
“How do I know if they’re real?”
“How many of each one do you think exists out there?”
“What should I do with them now?”
“Do you know anyone else who trades cards?”
Again, I was clueless.
I also found out that the process for potentially evaluating, selling, and even buying these cards was a bit complex.
First off, the cards would need to be graded by a trusted grading company (which itself is a questionable practice). This process essentially authenticates them. To get to the “best” grading company (PSA), my nephew would need to safely package the cards, mail them across the border (we live in Canada), and then sit on the wait list, which can apparently take months.
And only then he would find out from the grading company if the cards are actually authentic and also in worthy of a high “grade” (say a 9 or 10).
That’s a lot of work for a non-guaranteed hockey card bounty.
But hey — for some people it would be worth it, especially a 15 year old who is bored out of his mind during the pandemic. But that doesn’t change the fact that the process just seemed incredibly antiquated.
So what’s the solution? How does something (kind of) cool like the sports card market modernize?
Enter the blockchain.
If you have not tuned in yet, consider this your invitation to start paying attention to blockchain. Again, I won’t try and explain how it works — you can click on the link at the top of this post to do that.
Instead, I’ll give you a quick TLDR rundown of what’s happened these last few years in the space:
In late 2017, as you may know, the big crypto boom happened (and then imploded), and we have since been living through something known as Crypto Winter. And during this time, blockchain enthusiasts and builders all over the world have been developing new ways of using the blockchain.
One of the most exciting, by far, is NBA Top Shot.
Created by Dapper Labs, Top Shot (TS) is a digital version of collectible basketball cards. You can purchase “packs” just like in real life, and cross your fingers that you’ll have a nice Lebron or Kawhi in there (or Caruso, if that’s your flavour).
Here’s how it works:
· You collect packs of cards from Top Shot.
· Each card has a specific serial number (ex: #141 Tyler Herro)
· Each set a total edition size that is publicly visible (ex: #141 of 250 Tyler Herro)
· Similar to real-life cards, the TS cards list specific statistics for that player and also places them into a specific Set (ex: “Rookie Debut Set”)
· In addition to real life cards that simply depict a photo of the player, the TS cards are actually a specific play from a real NBA game (ex: #141 of 250 Tyler Herro Rookie Debut Set “3 pointer on December 28, 2019”)
· The cards are called “Moments”, and when you open your Moment you watch a 10–15 second highlight real of that play.
Now, there are many more similarities and differences between Top Shot and real-life cards. But the primary one for me is that the digital Moments can be bought, traded, and sold in real time on Top Shot’s own marketplace.
Meaning you can buy a Moment, and then immediately re-list it for more (or less!). You can also view how many of each Moment are available and how much each one is selling for. And with the help of CryptoSlam, you can even see how many have sold and for how much.
Which offers the absolute most important and game changing element of bringing this type of collectible to the blockchain:
In 2020, its still a bit odd to think of something online as authentic, but really, how authentic is an Instagram account? Or a Fortnite character? Or any other online space/property that lives on a server somewhere?
These Top Shot moments are quite real. They are something called an NFT (Non-Fungible Token), and their authenticity is made possible by the blockchain.
An NFT is a one-of-a-kind item. On the blockchain, each one has its own unique signature, and in the case of digital sports moments, means there is absolutely no doubt that it is what it is. So the Moments you buy on Top Shot are truly what they say they are.
No grading company. No wait time. No cutting corners.
The Moment you collect is without a doubt the Moment you want.
Now, this isn’t the first application of its kind. There are already similar Soccer and Formula 1 products, as well as various other collectibles such as Garbage Pail Kids and CryptoKitties (the latter of which was also made by Dapper, and features a game where you can play the Kitties against each other).
But this is the first one that caught my eye.
And again, I’m not a developer or a tech person. I don’t claim to fully understand blockchain. But I do really love watching basketball and a former extreme comic book collector.
So if this can get me involved, it can get a lot of other “normal” people involved. And if Top Shot can go mainstream (it just launched its open beta today) with their solution for authenticity in the collector space, then their success (along with the success of other similar products and marketplaces) will set a precedent for the general public’s willingness to trust online transactions on the blockchain.
Which would open a whole new world of possibilities.
So how long until it does?
Curious about Top Shot? Access the open beta here.