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Is it Time for the NFL to Create an NBA Top Shot of its Own?

The league and the NFLPA are well aware of the NFT collectibles boom. Why not act now?

The booming early success of NBA Top Shot, as well as the world of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) as a whole, has caught the attention of athletes far beyond the world of basketball. With NBA Shot sales surpassing $370 million since the platform’s October launch, it’s only natural that the NFL and its players might wonder about how they might get in on the action themselves.

Not only are Top Shot’s digital highlight Moments especially fun for NBA athletes to follow given the skin they have in the game — it can be lucrative for them, too. In addition to licensing the highlights, the NBA and NBPA have a deal with Top Shot developer Dapper Labs to split the 5% seller’s fee of every transaction on the virtual collectibles marketplace.

The NFL and its players’ union do have a licensing agreement with NFT company Ecomi, which runs a digital collectibles marketplace of its own via the VeVe app, but it’s unclear just what form this relationship will take. In the meantime, the Top Shot model feels like a no-brainer for other major sports leagues to jump into. And one can only imagine the numbers the NFL would generate as America’s most-watched and supported sport. 

“It’s an interesting business,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said. “Our folks at Player’s Inc., as well as team partners, have been following [NBA Top Shot] closely. I think that the trading card market is a fascinating market to begin with. It’s upwards of, depending on who you ask, $5 to $6 billion of a market every year.”

No big announcements have dropped as of this writing. But it’s clear that the wheels are turning.

Especially following a pandemic season that made fully-packed stadiums impossible, every league needs to seek out new, innovative revenue streams, and no league knows revenue numbers like the NFL. With a LeBron James slam dunk Moment recently selling for more than $200,000 on Top Shot, one can only imagine what a Tom Brady goal line dive touchdown or Patrick Mahomes sidearm dime highlight could bring in. 

Rob Gronkowski has already joined the NFT movement, making millions on his own personal set of virtual trading cards, and Mahomes soon followed with his own digital art auction. The worlds of football and non-fungible tokens coming together isn’t inevitable; it’s already happening.

An NFL analogue to Top Shot or even Sorare, which built an NFT-based fantasy game around global soccer, feels like a logical next step.

Ultimately, an NFL answer to NBA Top Shot is good for everyone. The league and its players make more money, blockchain technology grows even more mainstream, and fans get a new opportunity to invest and collect around the game they love.

The question is when, not if.

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