A New Collectible Enters the Game

The practice of collecting memorabilia has been synonymous with sports fandom for decades. For decades and even centuries, fans have been willing to spend ridiculous amounts of money to acquire unique pieces of history, like one of Babe Ruth’s bats from the 1927 season or the “Holy Grail of Sports Cards,” the T206 Honus Wagner card. But in just the past couple of months, a new digital type of collectible has gained steam very quickly: the NFT.

NFTs, or Non-Fungible Tokens, are virtual tokens that contain unique bits of code that make them impossible to copy. Since the technology was developed, several groups have used NFTs to create “moments to own.” For example, say Zion Williamson scores a picture-perfect windmill dunk in his next game. The NBA’s newly formed platform called TopShot will create an NFT of the moment and will then put it up for sale. Then you can buy that NFT and own that windmill dunk. However, it might also come with an opportunity to meet Zion Williamson himself, which creates a tangible reward for purchasing the digital good.

But here’s a question: What is the true value of such a “collectible?” At its core, all NFTs are just bits of computer code that supposedly provide ownership of an actual moment. However, the benefit of this is that fans are ascribing value to this, and that’s what really matters. For example, Francis Ngannou decided to create an NFT with rapper Boss Logic in preparation for his heavyweight championship fight with Stipe Miocic. Ngannou won the fight and auctioned off the NFT after the fight. During a Sportico event about NFTs, he said that the item sold for 10x what he and his agent, Marquel Martin, expected.

This provides an intriguing and exciting look not only into the future of memorabilia hunting, but the future of our society in general. During the Sportico conference, other speakers talked about NFTs being created for everything from kitchen appliances to deeds and car licenses. This new technology is quite strange, but I feel like its influence on the sports world is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of how NFTs could affect our lives.

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