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Top Shots

Blockchain + Basketball = NBA Top Shot

I’m getting a little out of my comfort zone here, but I figured I’d take a look at NBA Top Shot since it may be the newest and most technically advanced form of basketball ‘moment’ collecting. I can’t say its a direct comparison to basketball card collecting, but it has elements of card collecting and it might become a popular niche market for tech and basketball enthusiasts.

I first learned about NBA Top Shot the other day when I stumbled upon an article on the official NBA.com website hyping the concept (see this article). I was curious what it was all about, so I created an account, but have yet to buy anything (I tried… more on this later). When I created my account I figured it was worth it to plunk down $25-$50 for this blockchain backed basketball moment platform simply to learn about it and experience what the hype is all about.

The article mentioned earlier summarizes the concept quite well, “NBA Top Shot is a blockchain-based platform that allows fans to buy, sell and trade numbered versions of specific, officially-licensed video highlights.”

Interestingly enough, this is a joint venture between the NBA, the NBA Players Association and Dapper Labs (the company behind CryptoKitties). Right now, there doesn’t seem to be much player involvement outside of Tyler Herro, who is all over the platform. Seriously – it looks like Herro himself made this up to hype himself. All the banner ads and it seems like all the content introducing the concept feature Herro in some form or another. So if you love Herro, this might be a great platform for you.

NBA Top Shots Tyler Herro Banner 1
NBA Top Shots Tyler Herro Banner 2
NBA Top Shots Tyler Herro Banner 3

I was ready to buy a pack or two the first moment I landed on the site, but everything was sold out. That didn’t bother me all that much, but I wish they had a calendar featuring when new drops would happen, and possibly even a feature for new accounts to reserve a pack or two. That would certainly help broaden their user base.

Instead, Top Shots encourages visitors to “follow Top Shot on social to never miss a drop”. Ok Top Shots, but you are starting to get on my nerves before I even make a purchase. However, maybe this is all part of some master plan. So before I even complete a pack purchase, let me quickly go into what I like and dislike about this new blockchain based concept.

Screen shot of Top Shots Twitter Account announcing Cool Cats pack drop (2/15/2021)

To their credit, they are active on their twitter account and did make the announcement that a drop was coming. I wonder if the “Cool Cats” is a little insider tip-of-the-cap to their other blockchain product, CryptoKitties. I see what you did there Draper Labs.

NBA Top Shot Likes

Blockchain

First, I’ll just come out and say that I like how these folks are trying something new and using blockchain to engage with basketball fans. I’m not sold on crypto currencies, but blockchain technology seems like a great and safe way to protect data and maybe this will translate well with basketball collectors and tech enthusiasts.

Scarcity

Top Shots has incorporated elements of scarcity within their product, which is smart because this will help create demand. There are four tiers: Common, Rare, Legendary, and Ultimate. Each tier has a different amount of moments available. It looks like the Top Shot Rare moments are limited from about 1,000 down to around 200, the Legendary moments appear to only have 50 to 100 available. I looked to see if there were any Top Shot Ultimates for sale on the platform but there were none, so my guess is these are extremely rare, possibly 25 or fewer. I’ll update if/when I find out.

Price Transparency / Market Research

The internal ‘secondary’ market for moments is also well set up and there is plenty of price transparency so you can get a sense of whether or not you are overpaying or not. It would be great if eBay also had something like the purchase history for the last 5 sales of a card, but that doesn’t exist so its up to each buyer to do their homework. Top Shots takes that element out of the equation and you have the price history data right there.

When you go to purchase a moment, you are automatically matched with the seller offering the lowest price. You can also look around and see what other sellers are offering. Perhaps you are willing to pay a bit more for a moment that has the same jersey number as the player. This happens with basketball cards and Top Shot also says it happens with their digital assets. Its nice to automatically be matched with the lowest price seller in a Buy It Now (to use the eBay parlance) type transaction.

Quality

The last thing I like is that there is no question about quality. With basketball card collecting, if I go to buy an ungraded Charles Barkley 1986 Fleer rookie card off of eBay, I can see and guess with some degree of accuracy how good or bad the card is that I’m buying. But even with great photos and a seller’s description there is still always a question of quality.

Not to mention, once I receive the card, I have to be careful (and I’m disgustingly careful) about keeping the card safe and not damaging it. As most collectors know, sometimes cards are mailed out in bad or old plastics and if I get a card like that I always transfer it to a better card protector.

With a digital asset like an NBA Top Shot moment, you don’t have to worry about any of that. The only two things that differentiate one moment from another are the moments serial number and the tier. Plus, since everything is backed up on the blockchain, you theoretically don’t ever have to worry about someone hacking in and stealing your digital asset. That’s pretty sweet.

YouTube Presence

I’ll be the first to admit I like to turn to YouTube for market and product research. Anyone that has a presence on YouTube makes my life a little easier. Top Shots has a fairly strong YouTube presence, and they even host “Ask Us Anything” events, like this post featuring a roundtable of female investors/hobbyists. I watched bits of it, but from what I saw it looked like an enthusiastic bunch – understandably so if their accounts have ballooned up to be valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Top Shots Ask Us Anything published to YouTube on Feb 18, 2021

NBA Top Shot Dislikes

Signing In

I tried to sign in right before the 3PM EST drop, but the site crashed. I likely missed my opportunity to grab a pack or two. I contacted customer support and asked if they could reserve a pack or two for someone in my shoes but we will have to wait and see.

Screen shot of Error message when trying to sign in on 2/15/2021

Maybe customer support will be my Herro, I mean hero. After a few days, there was still no update from Customer Support. Oh well, back to eBay for physical card purchases.

Physical Void

I love collecting basketball cards because it engages four out of five senses. Touching and holding onto a card you’ve been coveting for a long time is a really fun experience and one you can relive many times. Not being able to hold onto an asset takes some of the joy out of the hobby for me.

With Top Shots, you really only have one of your five senses engaged and on top of that, it requires screen time. In a world where we are on or engaged with screens more often than we are away from screens, I’m not sure if I’m cut out for my past time to also be fully reliant on the internet and screen time.

“Packaging”

This is blockchain technology mixing with basketball highlights, so you’d think they would have some really cool packaging for the packs. However, they choose some condom-like design. Why not go with some really crazy and cool futuristic looking opaque block? Or maybe just a big black box with a question mark on it? Anything would be better than this condom wrapper package.

Top Shots Pack Packaging - does that say Common or Condom?
Top Shots Pack Packaging – does that say Common or Condom?

Nothing Vintage

Perhaps this is in the works (they are only running in Beta after all), but one of the biggest aspects of collecting basketball cards for me is getting my hands on cards of my childhood heroes (can I make the Herro joke one more time?). I’m talking Jordan, Magic, Bird, Dr. J! The legends have some of the best highlights that I’ve seen thousands of times, and yet Top Shots doesn’t have that.

michael jordan shrug GIF
THE Shrug

Closing Thoughts

I like what NBA Top Shot is trying to do, but I’m going to hold off on making any purchases right now. With Bitcoin hitting record highs day after day, I get the sense that anything and everything blockchain related is riding the wave higher. I also can’t nerd out the same way with a crypto asset as I can with a physical card. Maybe I’m just a dinosaur though.

It looks like there is certainly a young and enthusiastic market out there for Top Shots, but for now I’m going to wait and watch from the sidelines, and continue to go after vintage cards of Jordan, Bird, Magic, and the other legends from my childhood. Sorry Herro.

Herro Snarl

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