Non-fungible tokens shot to prominence in early 2021 when digital art veteran Beeple managed to sell a whole raft of his art in the form of NFTs. In total this sale bagged in excess of $60 million for the artist, the sort of numbers that are usually reserved for the works of past masters.
This massive online sale of a previously niche type of tradeable product sent shockwaves through the online investing community, as art fans and investors alike scrambled to learn more about how and why NFTs had suddenly become a force to be reckoned with.
Part of this scramble involved other industries aside from art getting involved. One of these was sports, as fans jostled as fast as they could to turn anything from memorabilia to video clips into noteworthy NFTs.
The results were spectacular and culminated in an NFT called the Statue of LeBron, which is the unique picture file of a photo taken of the NBA All Star by pro snapper Kimani Okearah. The price tag of this NFT is a whopping $21.6 million, showing the expectations that creators of NFTs have going forward.
How it All Works
The general concept behind NFTs has been around for centuries, as art dealers and traders assign value to paintings and drawings which are unique and impossible to recreate, meaning that more often than not their value will increase over time, especially if a certain artist suddenly comes in vogue again.
NFTs are no different, apart from what sets them apart is a unique code that is defined by, and stored on, what is known as a blockchain. Where NFTs and regular art auctions differ, though, is the fact that almost anything digital can become an NFT and that anyone can create them. This means that as long as there is enough demand, an NFT will sell, even if its creator is completely unknown to the wider public. There are also no worries about the art piece being stolen in a grand heist, because the blockchain is completely secure. It is for this reason that plenty of observers are dubbing NFTs as the future of art and sports memorabilia.
Although it is too early to tell if that is indeed the case, NFTs have at least disrupted one of the most entrenched industries in the world and do not appear to have lost momentum yet.
Statue of Lebron is Not Alone
The aforementioned Statue of Lebron is far from being the only sports NFT that has demanded that investors and dealers break the bank.
Another far more inventive sports NFT is the one built into the baseball video game called MLB Champions. In this case the buyer of the NFT would not receive a glossy photo or a video clip, but instead would have sole access to a player avatar within the video game.
This idea had previously been scoffed at when video gamers started paying real fiat currencies for avatar skins in games like Fortnite but has now been taken to new levels by NFTs. The avatar in this case was of Brett Gardner, who plies his trade for the New York Yankees in the real-life MLB. Gardner’s digital likeness can be purchased for no less than $21 million.
Sports Card Collectables Go to the Next Level
Because of the flexibility of NFTs it is not just regular sports fans who are being drawn to trading sites like OpenSea, because those folks who also love collecting sports memorabilia are getting on board with the NFT trend.
This is epitomised by items such as rare playing cards from games similar to Top Trumps being turned into NFTs, although their price tags are scarier than the ones attributed to the packs of cards one might buy in a newsagents or corner shop.
It is this melding of the sports and arts worlds which has investors so excited about NFTs, as the general public are able to take part in the process and therefore drive up the prices of online assets.
By Aaron Walsh