Athletes Enter in the Sport NFT Space, Garnering Significant Attention - Identity Review | Global Tech Think Tank - Identity Review | Global Tech Think Tank

For most of their existence, NFTs have acted as a niche art form collected by rich techies. In the last few months, however, these digital assets have started to penetrate the lives of broader social groups, becoming not just buzzwords but normal endeavors. 

As more celebrities begin to mint, distribute and advertise their own art pieces, the public has started to take notice. This phenomenon has particularly accelerated as athletes enter the space, partnering with well-known organizations to launch their own collections of unique assets. 

Sports NFTs in American Leagues

Of late, some of the largest NFT partnerships in the sports industry are occurring in the NBA. In 2019, the NBA announced a partnership with Dapper Labs to create video moments of the NBA as NFTs. As of one year ago, the partnership has resulted in $230M worth in transactions on the platform.  

Players are likewise delving with the space on an individual basis. In August of 2021, Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors purchased a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT for $180,000. The Bored Ape Yacht Club. Curry became one of many athletes to own one, including names like LaMelo Ball, Neymar, Andrew Wiggins, Serena Williams, and Shaquille O’Neal.

NBA stars aren’t just advertisers for these projects. In fact, athletes like Josh Hart, owner of a CryptoPunk NFT, tweeted about listing one of his NFTs on Fractional Art so other users could own a piece of it. Such discussions signify the proliferation of NFT technology—athletes aren’t just watching from the sideline, but actively participating in developing blockchain communities and taking initiative in new projects.

And the NBA is not the only American league to explore the tech realm. Dez Bryant, a football player, partnered with Chainlink to release NFTs that display real world stats. These collectibles represent football players and can adjust based on attributes such as penalties and tackles. The NFT, then, goes from a stagnant collectible to a real-time, real-world representation of trends. 

Sports NFT Partnerships Around the World

NFT partnerships expand far beyond America, making significant strides internationally through soccer partnerships. Paul Pogba, for instance, recently partnered with CryptoDragons. CryptoDragons allows users to mint eggs which produce dragons that can battle other dragons that fight in virtual arenas. Granting users the ability to collect unique dragons and earn money, the company has carved a noted space for itself in the metaverse. Through their partnership with Pogba, a celebrated French soccer player, CryptoDragons has further solidified their standing within the crypto space.

Like America, NFT partnerships are developing among international leagues, too. Germany’s Bundesliga soccer league just announced a partnership with Sorare—the partnership allows users to purchase their favorite soccer players from the league as NFT collectibles. Such partnerships bring NFTs to a broader scope to European communities and opens doors for organizations to operate on both a league-by-league and individual-player basis. 

Sports NFTs Are Here to Stay

While the specific use cases of NFTs are still being developed, NFTs are becoming increasingly culturally significant. Just as baseball cards and Pokemon cards became cultural staples in the late 90s, NFTs are slowly starting to do the same, this time on a much larger, widespread scale. As more athletes enter this arena, NFTs are reaching some of their most passionate audiences—those who follow sports. Critiques on the space aside, it’s clear that NFTs are here to stay.


Jibran Khalil is a computer scientist and entrepreneur from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a Tech Innovation Fellow at Identity Review and creator of My Workout Group, an iOS app that uses social accountability to help people workout. 

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