The Opening Tip:
  • NBA Top Shot are digital highlight moments that are tokenized like Bitcoin.
  • The non-fungible tokens, or NFT, collectibles market is red hot right now.
  • A LeBron James NBA Top Shot moment sold for more than $200,000 recently.

luka doncic 4 million dollar rookie card

Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks decided to gamble a little when they selected 19-year-old Luka Doncic in the 2018 NBA Draft third overall. The Mavs invested $32.4-million in Doncic’s first contract that runs through the end of the 2022 season. While the franchise continues to work towards becoming a playoff contender, Doncic’s 29 points per game have sports card collectors investing millions, too. Recently, a one-of-a-kind Doncic rookie auto with an NBA logoman patch embedded in the carboard sold for a hobby record $4.6-million. That’s not a typo and more than half of Doncic’s 2020-21 salary. But what’s even more remarkable is that seven-figure sale is sharing headlines with the hottest new trend in the sports memorabilia and collectibles market: NBA Top Shot.

What is NBA Top Shot?

It’s really easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole and lost in the weeds of Top Shot’s blockchain technology, but the bottom line is it’s an NBA-licensed company that allows collectors to purchase NBA player highlights called “moments” via limited edition digital packs and at the site’s marketplace where owners can buy and sell their previously acquired moments. The scarcity / rarity of the highlights is what helps boost the perceived value. Each Top Shot moment is serial numbered in some fashion with a parallel variant. Here’s the breakdown:

Common Moments

These base set moments, which can be acquired via digital pack or at the marketplace, have over 1,000 copies. Common packs are priced at $9-and-up.

Rare Moments

These highlights are serial numbered anywhere between 150-999 copies and available in packs that start at $22 and go up from there.

Legendary Moments

Found in Top Shot’s packs that start at $230, collectors will get six common, three rare and one legendary moment serial numbered anywhere between only 25-99 copies in the world.

Platinum Ultimate and Genesis Ultimate Moments

Serial numbered to only 3 copies and 1 copy, respectively, the Platinum and Genesis Ultimate moments will only be available through auction.

The Top Shot Gamble and ROI

And while the MSRP of some of these Top Shot packs may raise some eyebrows among collectors who remember paying a couple bucks back in the 1980’s or the generation before who clipped cards to their bicycle spokes, the return on initial investment on a sizzling secondary market is why Top Shot’s popularity has soared over the past two months.

This LeBron James “Legendary Moment” that originally came out of a $230 pack sold on the Top Shot marketplace for – are you sitting down? – $208,000.

A quick scan of Top Shot’s marketplace today notes moments priced as high as $250,000, as in the case of this Karl-Anthony towns dunk serial numbered No. 1 of 75 copies. Granted, the highest amount paid for this moment was $8,999. Just like the stock market or ebay buy-it-now listing, there is a bid and ask spread between realized gains.

Top Shot and Bitcoin’s Connection

It’s worth noting the sale of the LeBron James’ moment was the day after Bitcoin, a fellow blockchain creation, soared to an all-time high of $58,332 per coin. It’s probably just a coincidence. Just kidding, collectors invest in Top Shot moments as speculators invest in Bitcoin. To date, both investments have paid off handsomely for early adapters.

What’s not a coincidence is the appeal of blockchain’s security. By storing these “moments” on the blockchain, Top Shot has created an NFT or non-fungible token. In other words, the “moment” is effectively unique and can’t be hacked should somebody try to replicate it.

The scarcity (serial numbered moments) and security (blockchain) is what has driven an overwhelming wave of tech-savvy investors seeking digital pieces of art to Top Shot. Recently, more than 200,000 collectors waited in an online queue for a “Rare Moments” pack when just over 10,000 were available. I was one of those collectors and when the queue was randomized and you learned of your place in line, I, along with more than 190,000 fellow Top Shoters, was on the outside looking in, 30-thousdanth and change in line.

NBA Top Shot’s Future

luka doncic rc 4 million dollar card sale

Bolillo Lajan San sold this Luka Doncic 1-of-1 Autographed Rookie Card to Nick Fiorella for $4.6-million (Instagram/@shyne150)

The million dollar, or should I say $4.6 million question, is: can Top Shot maintain this momentum enjoyed over the past few months? By having active NBA players actively promoting the product on Twitter and opening packs on streaming service Twitch helps, but for the old school collector a hurdle must be cleared: the lack of a tangible product.

When Bolillo Lajan San sold his 2018-19 Panini National Treasures Luka Doncic 1/1 Rookie Logoman Autograph, he handed it over to Nick Fiorella. The exchange of a collectible you can hold in your hand still means something as it would for art collectors of Monet, Van Gogh or Picaso.

Is that an archaic way of thinking? Top Shot creators, collectors and those who have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the digital moments believe so. After all, some of the most valuable collectibles and investments in the world are never seen or touched. They’re in private collections or digital share of stock that are bought and sold over and over, but never held in one’s hand.

How is an NBA Top Shot moments any different? To date, those who can see the forest beyond the trees have made bank and if the new-age investor continues down this path, the digital collectible / NFT market will erupt over the next five years.

Ryan Fowler

Ryan has covered sports on every media platform over the past 17+ years. The first seven years of his professional career were spent as a sports anchor and reporter at various local television stations, while he picked up side gigs as a freelance sports columnist and recurring radio guest before he decided to jump to the web. As content manager of sports simulation website and senior editor of's fantasy baseball and football coverage for the better part of this decade, Ryan embraces advanced metrics, trends, and outside-the-box angles to find his edge. You can follow him on Twitter @FreelanceFowler.

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